by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor
Drake Wilcox was 2 when he used plastic golf clubs to hit balls off the deck.
He was already getting golf lessons when he was 4.
It’s no wonder the Sheboygan Lutheran junior is hoping to become the first WIAA state champion from his school.
“The kid will go out and play 36 holes a day and not bat an eye,” Crusaders’ coach Larry Kettle said. “To me, that’s pretty rare, especially today.”
As a freshman, Wilcox finished as Division 3 state runner-up after the champion won by getting a birdie on the 18th hole.
Wilcox was leading the tournament with a few holes left as a sophomore but finished third.
“He’s got all the tools to do it,” Kettle said. “Now hopefully he can take those experiences and turn it into a positive finish.”
Wilcox, the reigning golfer of the year in the Big East Conference, says he expects to win state and his confidence has doubled since last season.
He worked on his game more this past summer, then used golf simulators whenever possible and practiced more down South compared to years’ past.
“My swing’s looking really good,” Wilcox said. “I just got new irons, the new TS2 driver, new wedges, and at the end of my summer, the expectations changed. … My expectations this year are going to be a lot higher.”
One of Wilcox’s strengths is knowing what club to use without even knowing the distance needed to remain on the fairway or hit the green.
“I can put it right next to the hole if I need to,” Wilcox said. “Meaning if I didn’t know I was 160 (yards) out, I would know I’d have to hit an 8-iron because I can visualize it. I can easily visualize a shot I have to do.”
Wilcox, invited to compete on the Wisconsin PGA Cup team for two days this June, learned this talent while taking summer lessons at the Kohler Golf Academy.
“I’ve never really had a range finder,” he said. “I’ve never really grew up playing on amazing courses. It was mostly just a course by my house that wasn’t the greatest, and they don’t really have yardage markers. So I’ve grown up just visualizing how far I need to hit this, what kind of swing I have to do, what kind of ball contact I want, etc.”
Lutheran returns five others: Besides Wilcox, the Crusaders return its entire team, highlighted by three other golfers who made all-conference last season in seniors Emma Egbert (second team) and Devin Madson (third team), as well as sophomore Andrew Meador (third team).
Lutheran finished fifth at state last season and Kettle says this year’s team has great potential.
“We have every ability in the world to go down to state and have a really strong showing,” he said. “We’ll see if St. Mary’s Springs reloads like the normally do, but I think this could be a good year. I’m very optimistic and I’m very excited.”