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Texas ex Kramer Hickok's legendary tour playoff is a life-changer

Tim Schmitt
Kramer Hickok watches his shot on the third tee during the final round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament last weekend. The former Texas golfer finished second to Harris English at the event after an eight-hole, sudden-death playoff.

There wasn’t much to indicate Kramer Hickok was ready to jump into the biggest moment of his professional life prior to last week’s Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn.

The former University of Texas star had missed the cut in eight of his previous dozen PGA Tour starts, including two weeks prior at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.

His putting, which has been one of the pieces of his game holding him back on tour, had slightly improved, but not to a point where it would seem he was ready for a major breakout.

Yet there he was, Jordan Spieth’s former Texas roommate and later his Dallas housemate, going shot-for-shot with vet Harris English in one of the most draining and fascinating playoffs in the history of the tour. Hickok buried a number of key putts down the stretch and although he lost on the eighth playoff hole, he clearly had won over the crowd at TPC River Highlands, many of whom chanted his name as the playoff wore on. It was the second-longest playoff in the history of the tour, trailing only an 11-hole playoff at the 1949 Motor City Open. 

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Hickok thought he had the tournament won on two different occasions. With English plugged in a greenside bunker on the second playoff hole, Hickok started to pump his fist as it appeared a 43-foot birdie putt was going in, but it curled around the cup and lipped out. His par was virtually guaranteed, putting all the pressure on English, but the former University of Georgia All-American drained the seven-footer to save par and extend the playoff.

Hickok also looked like he’d make a 12-foot birdie putt on the fifth playoff hole, but he burned the left edge, much to the chagrin of his wife, former University of Texas women’s golfer Anne (Hakula) Hickok, who was standing with Hickok’s family and the couple’s close pal PGA Tour star Sam Burns.

On the next playoff hole, Hickok thought he would lose after racing a birdie putt 15 feet past the hole. He drained his comebacker, and then English missed a birdie putt from seven feet that would have won the tournament.

“It was tough. I mean, my hamstrings were getting tired, my back was getting tired. I know Kramer was probably feeling the same thing,” English said. “You’ve got to lock in and make every shot the most important. It’s hard.”

It’s been a long road to becoming a PGA Tour mainstay for Hickok, who was the player of the year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada in 2017, winning twice and finishing second three times en route to capturing the Order of Merit. The following year, he won the DAP Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour to secure his first PGA Tour card.

But the playoff with English, which moved him into the top 70 in the FedEx Cup playoff standings, cemented his place on tour. He took home a runner-up check for $806,600 and this week will be in one of four featured groups during the first two rounds at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, playing alongside returning champ Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Champ.

"I learned that I belong," Hickok said afterward. "You can always tell yourself that. I could've easily won. … Keep my head up, keep my chin up and take what I learned today and keep battling and go next week and see what happens."

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Tech’s Pereira getting his chance on Tour

Looking for the next potential feel-good story on the Tour? Look no further than Texas Tech product Mito Pereira. The 26-year-old Chilean won his last two events on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this month, hitting the magic number of three developmental tour wins needed for automatic promotion to the PGA Tour.

Pereira claimed victories at the BMW Charity Pro-Am and REX Hospital Open earlier this month to go along with his February 2020 title at the Country Club de Bogota Championship. The Korn Ferry Tour currently is in a wrap-around super season caused by COVID-19.

Although he spent time in Lubbock, Pereira doesn’t really have a U.S. home base. Instead, he just crashes with good friend Joaquin Niemann, also of Chile, in his off weeks between tournaments. Asked if he has a room at Niemann’s, Pereira answered that he did.

“Everybody has,” he quipped.

More:Texas’ best course you can play? It’s a hike.

Who wants golf at Muny? Almost everyone

The city of Austin’s virtual stakeholder meeting in regard to future zoning for Lions Municipal Golf Course took place on June 21, and according to one of the key stakeholders, the response was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping golf in the area.

Scotty Sayers, longtime agent for Ben Crenshaw and part of the Coore and Crenshaw architecture firm, said on his 15th Club talk show with KLBJ’s Ed Clements, that 85% of the people who responded to the city’s call voted that they prefer to keep golf on the 141-acre site.

“It’s like Hancock,” Sayers said. “People want golf to stay there because it’s been there for nearly a hundred years.”

Speaking of Muny, remember the action gets hot and heavy this weekend as the Firecracker Open will be held at the storied course this Friday through Sunday. The tournament, once known as the Texas Public Links Golf Association Championship, dates all the way back to 1946.

Tim Schmitt is the managing editor for Golfweek, golf coordinator for the USA Today Network and lives in Round Rock within a driver and subsequent wedge from Dell Diamond.