Will Wilcox, who overcacme adversity, is on a roll heading into Barracuda | SierraSun.com

Will Wilcox, who overcacme adversity, is on a roll heading into Barracuda

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com
Will Wilcox watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the Barbasol Championship golf tournament, Friday, July 17, 2015, in Opelika, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
AP | FR111446 AP

Will Wilcox is on a roll, one he hopes he can continue through the rest of the season.

Wilcox, a PGA Tour player since 2009, is one of the hottest players around coming into the annual Barracuda Championship, which starts Thursday at Reno’s Montreux Golf & Country Club.

Wilcox has three top-10 finishes in 14 starts. He’s 128th in the FedEx standings, needing to move up three spots to qualify for the postseason and earn full-time status for the 2016 season.

The month of July was a special one for Wilcox. He tied for eighth at the John Deere Classic, and the following week in his home state of Alabama, he rolled in a 55-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to finish second. Last week, he chalked up a top-25 finish at the Quicken Loans National.

“It’s been a stretch that I didn’t expect, so I’d like to assume I’ll be able to keep doing it,” Wilcox said in a press conference Tuesday. “The altitude is a little tough for me because I hit a lot of lower shots. I’m still hitting it good.

“I’ll just have to stay really focused out there and make sure we don’t screw up any numbers, because there are a lot of downs and ups… and you have to consider the altitude. It’s going to be hard for everybody. The course is just unbelievable and the views are really special.”

Wilcox played in the Barracuda last year, but missed the cut.

“Well, I was a different player last year,” he said. “I was hitting it a lot different. My short game wasn’t as good. My life off the course wasn’t what it should have been and is now. I was just a different person altogether than I am now.

“I just feel like everything is well rounded and that I’m coming into something good. I’ve found that if I’m focused on the right things, generally things go OK for me. Last year was just nothing. I was playing really weird.”

What makes Wilcox’s story compelling is he had a rough childhood in Pell City, Ala. He admits he was constantly in trouble with the law.

“If someone had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would’ve said, ‘In jail or dead,’” Wilcox told PGA media official Doug Milne. “I learned it all at a young age. Being from a place like Pell City, you just start young.”

Wilcox was a good enough junior golfer to get a scholarship to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, but his troubled ways had followed him to campus, and he eventually got kicked off the team. His parents also kicked him out of the house, and he moved to Auburn in 2006 where he stayed with his sister, who charged him $100 a month to sleep on a cot.

He eventually got a job at a pizza parlor, making $5.50 an hour. He didn’t have enough money to do much, especially play a lot of golf.

Discouraged, he tried to get into the Navy. He was rejected because of his arrest record. He started selling belongings, even his golf clubs. When a pawn shop owner offered him just $50, he kept the clubs.

That was a decision that would eventually change his fortunes.

Wilcox’s father met Barry Harwell, a golf coach at Clayton State in Georgia. The coach offered a full ride.

It was a good match. Wilcox was a three-time All-American, won the Peach Belt Conference title and several other collegiate events. He also trumped at the 2008 state amateur.

His relationship with his parents is great, and he’s thankful they stuck by him. With his PGA tour winnings, he’s made improvements to his parents’ house as a way of thanking them.

Wilcox won the Web.com Tour’s South Georgia Classic in 2013, and he made the cut in 15 of 17 events that year. In 2014, he had two top-10s on the PGA Tour, giving him conditional status this season.

He’s shown he belongs, winning over $1 million this year.

Notes

The pro-am of the Barracuda Championship gets under way at 6:40 a.m. Thursday. The afternoon group tees off at noon .

Tom Hoge has had 14 straight rounds of par or better, which is the top streak on the PGA Tour this year. Earlier this year, Patrick Reed had 21 straight rounds of par or better.