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US Open Twice as Nice for Hicks and Hicks

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2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Justin Hicks went to the golf course, took a walk around, had a beer and a sandwich. Five hours later, he spotted his name atop the U.S. Open leaderboard.
 
Indeed, it was quite a day to be Justin Hicks at Torrey Pines'even if you werent THE Justin Hicks at Torrey Pines.
 
Turns out, there were two of them out there Thursday.
 
One was the Nationwide Tour professional, the one who shot 3-under 68 to take the clubhouse lead halfway through the first round. The other was the club professional at Stadium Golf Center in San Diego, who simply drove up the road to watch the action.
 
I got home, I had three or four e-mails saying `Congrats on the Open, said Hicks, the teaching pro. I had students saying, `Wow, youre playing fantastic.
 
A nice sentiment.
 
But in fact, it was the other Justin Hicks who was making a name for himself.
 
Hes the 33-year-old from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., who has been playing the Nationwide on and off for the past four years. He made it here through qualifying earlier this month.
 
Who am I? Hicks said after his round. Well, I think Im just another one of the guys out there playing the Nationwide Tour, trying to earn his PGA TOUR card. Theres a lot of great young players in America, and were all out there trying to earn our way up.
 
The other Justin Hicks, a 38-year-old who was born and raised in San Diego, was like that once, too.
 
He went to UC-Santa Barbara in the early 90s, then transferred to UCLA, where he played golf as a walk-on. In 1995, he went to Q-school and made it to the second round. After that, he played on the Hooters Tour for five or six months.
 
Thats when I realized my game wasnt good enough and that wasnt quite what I was looking for, he said.
 
Around then, Stadium Golf opened, and he has enjoyed a successful career there ever since.
 
Not that he hasnt dabbled in the playing side a little.
 
He was named the San Diego chapters PGA Player of the Year last year, and as such got a sponsors invitation to the Buick Invitational, played at Torrey Pines earlier this year.
 
He played a practice round with Tiger Woods.
 
A once-in-a-lifetime experience, he called it.
 
But all this mixing of Hickses has caused some confusion.
 
For instance, around the time Hicks was practicing with Tiger, the other Hicks got a call from the Nationwide Tour after officials saw his name on the entry list for the Buick. They said they were scratching him from their season-opening event in Panama City.
 
I told them, Well, Id like to go to Panama, because thats not me, Hicks said.
 
That led to Hicks the teaching pro suddenly becoming Jason B. Hicks, as far as the PGA TOUR recordbooks were concerned.
 
There have been other moments.
 
Both players have sponsorship deals with Titleist, and occasionally their checks get crossed in the mail. (No comment on whos getting the better deal in that.)
 
They are not friends, barely know each other, but they did happen to be on the same airplane in 2004 in Houston: Justin B. Hicks was going to a teaching summit, Justin Hicks on his way home from Q-School.
 
They have exchanged e-mails, talking about their strange connection.
 
On Monday, during practice rounds, Justin B. Hicks made a point of coming to the course to meet his namesake. Justin Hicks invited him inside the ropes, they chatted for a bit and Justin B. Hicks decided to watch him some when he returned for the first round Thursday.
 
I was talking to his mom, his wife, his sister-in-law, Hicks said.
 
He also met Justin Hicks friend, John Turcotte, who should not, in any way, be confused with Jon Turcott, the Nationwide pro who is also in the U.S. Open this week.
 
I said, `We oughta get a foursome together. It could be a pretty interesting time, Justin B. Hicks said.
 
(Justin B. Hicks also has a good friend named Dean Wilson, not the Dean Wilson who shot 5-over-par 76 Thursday, but lets not even go there.)
 
When all the craziness is over, its hard to know who will get the most out of this jumble of Justins.
 
Any golf fan who typed the words Justin Hicks into Google on Thursday saw a link for www.hicksgolf.com. Thats Justin B. Hicks teaching Web site. Hard to buy publicity like that.
 
As for Justin Hicks the playing pro'well, anything seems possible after a day that very few could have expected.
 
Hopefully people arent too surprised, at least my good friends, he said. I thought it was a pretty good round.
 
Surely, the other Justin Hicks would second that.
 
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