So here’s one for the record books: Jacksonville University made its first appearance in an NCAA championship. That’s impressive enough, but the strange route the team took to get there is an even better story.
Jacksonville was playing in a regional in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and entered the final day of competition six strokes off the pace to advance to nationals. But some determined play closed the gap, and as the day wound down, the Dolphins were right in the mix for one of the five slots to advance.
Senior David Wicks was playing his 13th hole when he marked his ball, then crouched to read his putt. And then his troubles began. When he stood up and pulled his ball out of his pocket, he dropped it, and the ball kicked backward off his heel and straight into the water. Bad news. Worse news: if Wicks didn’t find his original ball, he’d be hit with a two-stroke penalty that could damage both his and his teammates’ chances at advancing.
So there wasn’t really a choice. Wicks stripped to his skivvies and hit the water. He found at least 30 balls, none of which were his own.
“I was always going to go in,” Wicks said. “If I hadn’t gone in and we’d lost by a shot, the nine-hour drive back I would have been thinking about it the whole time. At least I know now.”
But, in case you can’t remember the opening sentence of this article, the story ended happily. Wicks parred out the rest of his round, forced a playoff with Northwestern, and won the sudden-death playoff.
“I was determined to redeem myself,” he said. “I was worried that everyone would remember my college career as the guy who lost us a spot at nationals. That wasn’t the way I was going to go out.”
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.