TMU athletics gets a new head golf coach
October 24, 2018
Two thousand miles away from his home town in Mebane, North Carolina, Jacob Hicks, the new men’s golf coach at TMU, reminisced about his grandmother’s cooking.
“She’s the best cook, ever,” Hicks said. “We would go there every Sunday after church growing up, and she would just have a full spread of green beans, mashed potatoes, some type of roast or barbecued chicken, sweet potato casserole, biscuits and gravy, and another casserole. She just went all out.”
Hicks first learned about TMU when his former boss put him in touch with Jason Semelsberger, the former golf coach at TMU. Hicks called Semelsberger in order to ask about a possible graduate position and ended up leaving the conversation with a likely shot at head coach.
“I guess he liked what he heard and things kinda progressed from there,” Hicks said. “I got on a phone call with the (athletic director), gave them a list of references and then they flew me out here for an official visit. Then, they offered me a job.”
Hicks’ journey to TMU began before he was even playing golf.
“My old boss and Jason were mutual friends. They played mini tour golf together back in the Carolinas and just had a strong brotherhood,” Hicks said. “They were both young believers when they were playing pro-golf and just kin
da did life on life together and really formed a strong friendship and have stayed in touch.”
Hick’s own golf career started when he was very young. His dad introduced him to the game, and he started playing seriously at the age of 9.
“I just had a lot of natural talent,” Hicks said. “I picked up a club, and I was good at it. I noticed that. My dad noticed it, and I was like, ‘I’ll just stick with this, this is fun.’”
“I think it was because I started beating my older brother right away, and he hated that. Of course, I liked it,” he added with a little grin.
He was playing tournament golf and traveling around North Carolina by the time he was 11. Later, Hicks was recruited by East Carolina, a Division I school, where he played golf and studied communication.
“I was very fortunate to have a believing coach who really informally discipled me and just invested a lot of spiritual truth in my life,” Hicks said. “He was an awesome coach, and I would say he’s really the reason why I’m here. He showed me how great an influence a coach can have on one’s life.”
After he graduated, Hicks spent 11 months interning at a sports ministry called College Golf Fellowship (CGF), before being hired by TMU.
“As coach you have a lot of influence, a lot of authority and a lot of responsibility,” Hicks said. “But, I think over the past year God has really been shaping me and preparing me to be a coach.”
Hicks explained that he learned a lot from other coaches who were working at CGF and that the questions he asked while there have helped him prepare for coaching at TMU.
“I think it’s gone about as good as I could have expected,” Hicks said. “I really didn’t have many expectations in terms of our performance, because one, I didn’t recruit any of the guys, and then secondly, I knew I had a lot to learn. So I really tried to take a humble approach.”
The team agreed with Hicks about the transition. Karsten Briley, a junior on the golf team said the only way to describe the transition was smooth.
“He’s really pushing us in our spiritual lives,” Briley said. “Whether that’s getting into our Bibles and reading or having team discussions about what we’re learning in chapel (or) what we’re learning in church.”
Hicks also said that he has felt really respected by the guys on his team, despite him only being a few years older than most of them.
“He’s just a really caring dude,” Robert Penalber, a senior on the golf team, said. “He really loves the Lord and pushes us to do our best.”
One thing the team has enjoyed is helping Hicks get adapted to a West Coast lifestyle.
“He does not like the traffic,” Briley said.
“If it’s 8 o’clock on a week night on our interstate you’re going 80 mph, no problem,” Hicks said. “But here if you’re on the 405 you’re going 10 miles an hour.”
Despite the differences,
Hicks said he is really enjoying it here and has been welcomed.
“They’ve been really kind and forgiving. I think the guys are getting better,” Hicks said. “It’s been fun being a part of some of their successes—on the course, off the course—and really being able to disciple some of the guys. … I love it.”
While he is here, Hicks is considering getting his Master’s degree in Biblical Counseling. However, he wants to commit his energy to coaching his team both on and off the course.
“To be able to really pour into guys spiritually and help them grow in their walk with Jesus,” Hicks said. “That is such a blessing and gift. That’s why I decided to come here.”