By Doug Gorman
(Editor's Note: This is the first of two stories on local golfers in this year's U.S. Amateur in Pinehurst, N .C. A story on David Womack will appear on Monday).
It's safe to say 2008 has been a year Clayton State golfer Will Wilcox will never forget.
The rising senior, who began his college golf career at NCAA Division I Alabama-Birmingham before joining the Lakers' program two years ago, has added several accolades to his already impressive resume.
Wilcox heads to his final year of college golf as a conference champion, winning the Peach Belt title in the spring.
He also helped put Clayton State back on the college golf map last season, as the team spent most of the year ranked in the NCAA Division II top 20.
It all led to All-American recognition for the 22-year-old from Pell City, Ala.
But Wilcox didn't put his clubs away for a summer vacation. He has been just as busy since the college season ended, winning the Alabama Amateur against an impressive field of golfers.
He also had a strong showing at the Dogwood Invitational and the Spirit of America tourney as part of his busy summer golfing schedule.
Up next, Wilcox will compete on the national stage as he goes up against some of the best non pros in the country at the United State Amateur in Pinehurst, N.C.
Wilcox earned a bid to the country's most prestigious amateur event by finishing tied for fifth at a qualifier for the tournament. He then edged fellow Peach Belt Conference and Columbus State golfer Michael Hicks and Marietta's Mark Silvers in a playoff to gain entry into the tournament.
The NCAA Division II All-America can't wait to get there.
"It's a big deal to go," Wilcox said. "There are thousands and thousands who never get there, so I am excited."
He joins another local golfer, David Womack, the former Eagle's Landing state champion and Georgia State graduate in this year's tournament.
The United State's Amateur crowned its first champion in 1895. Tiger Woods captured the event three times before turning pro, and Phil Mickelson won in 1990. Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus went on to win in 1959. Arnold Palmer captured the event in 1954.
The Pinhurst No. 2 course has been the sight of some dramatic U.S. Open tournaments including Payne Stewart's win in 1999.
Michael Campbell won the U.S. Open when the tournament was played there in 2005.
Clayton State golf coach Barry Harwell said this is just another sign that Wilcox golf game is getting better.
"I don't think its a matter of him creating his own pressure, but now his golf game is getting to the point where everybody expects him to play good," Harwell said.
The United State's Amateur starts with over 300 players playing on two courses before the field is trimed in half. From there, those making the cut battle it out in match-play. The final two players earn an invitation to The Masters next year.
For Wilcox and the rest of the field, it all begins Monday. Wilcox has a 9 a.m tee time.
Since he joined the Clayton State golf team, the Lakers have become one of the best Division II teams in the country.
After making it to the NCAA Division II national tournament in the spring, Clayton State led after the first round.
Wilcox has been a big part of the turnaround.
"They have helped put me on the map," Wilcox said. "That's the way I look at it. I feel lucky to get over here and meet up with coach (Harwell)."