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Former Clayton State great Wilcox qualifies for 2011 U.S. Open

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

From Staff Reports

He's played in the NCAA Division II National Championships. He's also played in the prestigious U.S. Amateur Championships. Now this week, former Clayton State great Will Wilcox will tee off on arguably golf's biggest stage.

Wilcox is one of the 156-player field at the 111th U.S. Open, which begins on Thursday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Wilcox tees off on Thursday morning at approximately 9:12 a.m. with former Rice All-American Michael Whitehead and former Oregon great John Ellis. This is the U.S. Open debut for the 25-year-old Wilcox.

He earned his spot at the U.S. Open by carding a 136 in two rounds at the Rockville, Md., sectional on Monday.

Clayton State athletic director Mason Barfied is not suprised Wilcox made it into the field.

"I always though Will had what it takes to make it professional golf," he said. "Golf is such a different sport, but he has the personality for it. You can bet all of us will be watching him."

A native of Pell City, Ala., Wilcox started his pro career last summer on the Hooters Tour. There, he was honored as the Hooters Tour Rookie of the Year after amassing over $62,000 in winnings in only 11 events. Wilcox won the Savannah Lakes Village Classic, helping him earn an exemption on the Nationwide Tour through the "Race for the Fort Smith Classic Exemption," secured by the NGA Hooters Tour.

This season on the Nationwide Tour, Wilcox is ranked 20th on the money list, having earned $69,220 in only four events. He is also ranked third in greens in regulation and eighth in driving distance (314.7). Golfweek recently identified Wilcox (along with, among others, Arnold Palmer's grandson, Sam Saunders) as being one of five players without major-tour status who could have a big week at the U.S. Open.

Wilcox was a three-time All-American at Clayton State from 2007-2009, earning first team All-American honors in both 2008 and 2009. He was the 2008 Peach Belt Conference individual champion in 2008, and helped pace Clayton State to its first Peach Belt Conference championship in 2009. In addition, he helped lead the Lakers to a 10th-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championships.

It's just another great boost for Clayton State's athletic department. Earlier this year, the women's basketball team won the NCAA Division II title. The women's tennis team made it to the Final Four and the men's soccer team made it to the Elite 8.