Will Hocker headed to NCAA tournament to defend title

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At the national golf championship for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Will Hocker walked onto the range for the last day of competition. He said he will never forget having everyone’s parents look at him wearing their questions on their face. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Why does he have a blue mustache?

Hocker said he never had more awkward looks in his life, but he loved it.

“I enjoyed everyone giving me the attention,” Hocker said. “Especially whenever they looked up and saw my name was on the leaderboard.”

After three rounds of play in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Golf Championship a few weeks earlier, Hocker placed 3rd behind Jack Dwyer of Lake Forest College and his teammate, Justin McCoy who took 1st. McCoy and Hocker’s efforts aided the Gorloks to win their fourth consecutive SLIAC championship. However, Hocker was not satisfied with his performance. A few weeks later, Hocker became the first ever individual national champion in SLIAC history.

Hocker started playing golf around four years old. He was introduced to the sport by his grandparents around two or three years old when they gave him a playset. His dad then made him his first real golf club by cutting down an iron.

“My mom said I was born with a golf club in my hand,” Hocker said. “I’ve always been playing [golf], but I didn’t start to take it competitively until around 2012 or 2013.”

He went on to play golf in highschool at Grapevine High School in Texas. According to Hocker, North Texas has a lot of talented golfers. This allowed him to compete against some of the nations top athletes while they were in high school. This includes Scottie Scheffler, who is currently number 1 in the Official World Gold ranking.

Hocker said his high school career wasn’t super glamorous. He was able to get a few tournament wins, but a lot of his high school career he spent learning from high class talents in the Dallas area.

After graduating from highschool, Hocker verbally committed to Wichita State. He later decommitted and decided to attend Oklahoma University and just focus on academics. However, after two months at Oklahoma, Hocker realized how much he missed golf.

He joined the club team at Oklahoma but didn’t find it to be as competitive as he wanted it to be. He only played in one tournament with the club team. After that tournament, Hocker said he probably picked up a golf club maybe four times.  He eventually decided to come to Webster University to continue his golf career in a more competitive atmosphere.

“I did not practice or play much at all my freshman year at Oklahoma,” Hocker said. “I was a little nervous coming in when I transferred to Webster because I had no idea where my game was going to be. I was honestly just happy to be back in a competitive environment though.”

He said competition is something he has to have since he is a super competitive person in everything he does.

His first year at Webster, Hocker won SLIAC New-comer of the year and won the conference tournament being named the Golfer of the Year. Despite early success with Webster, Hocker’s career at the university has shown some difficult times.

Hocker came to Webster under former head coach, Andrew Belsky. Three year into Hocker’s career at Webster, Belsky ended up leaving. The university then hired an interim head coach who was former player Matt Gordon.

Gordon played golf at Webster University from 2015 through 2017. His time as coach was during a shortened COVID-19 season.

“Last February, we had no idea what we were going to be as a golf team,” Hocker said. “ We had no head coach or anything and Matt Gordon stepped in and filled the role really well.”

The Gorloks earned an automatic bid to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division-III Golf Championship after winning the conference championship in 2021. After what he recalls as an upsetting performance, Hocker worked on everything in the two weeks before nationals to compete at a comfortable level at the NCAA tournament.

On the way out to nationals, the team stopped and played at a course. At the course, Hocker was able to find something in his swing and mental game which allowed him to have such a great showing at the national tournament.

Previous to this tournament, Hocker had only played in two NCAA DIII Golf Championships with Webster. According to him, both times the team did not compete as well as he wanted. Before leaving for the NCAA tournament, Hocker told his teammates he would dye his mustache blue if the team made ‘the cut’. In order to make the cut, the Gorloks have to be one of the top 18 teams after the second day of competition.

“I had the mustache growing the entire spring season just as a little gag,” Hocker said. “I decided if I was going to let it go this far, I can give them something to play for and maybe I will put a smile on a few of their faces.”

The team ended up making the cut and the team met at the parents cabin and started to work on dying the mustache for the final day of competition. He said a few of his competitors were a little off put by the mustache.

“By the end of the day, I ended up winning them over,” Hocker said. “It was a cool little thing to have for sure. Definitely a memory I will never forget.”

Hocker came into the 2021-2022 season under the leadership of new head coach Brad Smith. Smith is the co-founder of FLYT Golf which produces the FLYT sleeve. Smith also played professionally from 2008-2017.

According to Smith, having Hocker on the team has been fun. He said he was fortunate to have someone with his leadership and skills already on the team. Now, the two of them are focusing on getting Hocker to the pro level after graduation.

“There were a couple areas of his game that he needed to improve to get his game to the next level finishing out his career of amatuer golf and turning professional,” Smith said. “I think it is satisfying to know I was able to help him. He has the right mindset to be a very good player beyond college.”

This is Smith’s first year as a college coach despite being a personal trainer for many years previous. He said Hocker’s leadership has helped him transition into this role pretty easily.

The biggest thing Smith wants to help Hocker learn is not to let their emotions affect their performance. Smith said this was something he struggled with when he first got into the professional world of golf. Along with this, Smith has been aiding Hocker on his short game which is what Smith specialized in when he played pro.

“[Hocker already hits a world class level,” Smith said. “His putting when I got here had a few things that needed to be corrected along with chipping and pitching.”

As the team heads to nationals after winning their fifth straight SLIAC championship, Hocker is focusing on defending his national title from last season. Smith’s goal is to make sure Hocker is relaxed and the rest of the team do the things they need to do so they can all play well.

Hocker said his big goal is just being as prepared as he possibly can be.

The team will travel to Howey-in-the-Hill, Florida for the NCAA DIII Tournament from May10th through May 13th.

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Sports Editor | + posts

Kaelin Triggs (he/him) is the sports editor for the Journal. He is a journalism major pursuing a career in sports writing. He also runs for Webster's track and cross country team, and he enjoys playing piano and hanging out with friends and family.