Hitting a hole-in-one is something every golfer dreams about, regardless of how unrealistic the dream may be for some.
For Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks, that dream became a reality by the time he was 15. Five times, in fact.
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Yes, while Hicks turned out to be a pretty good baseball player and was taken 14th overall by the Twins in the 2008 draft, he was once very talented youth golfer in California. He first hit the links when he was about five years old when he joined his father, Joseph, who needed a golfing partner.
The game of golf seemed to come naturally to Hicks at a young age. As a 5-year-old, he’d burn through two buckets of balls at the driving range by the time Joseph was done with one. Later, Hicks spent much time at Heartwell Golf Course, an 18-hole Par 3 course in his hometown of Long Beach, Calif.
When he was just 10 years old, Hicks carded his first hole-in-one while playing in the Junior Golf Association. Hitting a 7 iron on the 121-yard sixth hole at Heartwell, Hicks aced it — only he didn’t see the ball go in the hole.
“At that time we were playing at night. By the time you get to the back nine it’s night. It was probably around 7 o’clock,” Hicks recalls. “When I hit it, you kind of see it and then it just disappeared. I was looking around and all my buddies were like, ‘It went in!’ I was like, ‘Yeah!’ jumping around and stuff.
“It was one of those moments were you can’t wait to finish the round so you can go tell your parents about it.”
Four of the five holes-in-one Hicks has hit in his life came at Heartwell. The second came when he was 11, about a year after the first one. He later hit two as a 12-year-old. The lone hole-in-one that came elsewhere was at El Dorado Park Golf Course, also in Long Beach.
The 23-year-old Hicks hasn’t hit a hole-in-one since his fifth one at the age of 15. Of course, he’s been a little preoccupied with the sport he chose to pursue over golf.
“Baseball takes over,” Hicks said.
Weirdly enough, though, Hicks said playing golf actually helps his baseball swing. A switch-hitter in baseball, Hicks has always been a right-handed golfer. He tried golfing left-handed, but his “mean slice” forced him back to the right side.
“It actually helps out with my right-handed swing,” Hicks said. “For me, I feel like if I go out and I have a good round, I feel like the next time I hit right-handed I feel good.”
Hicks’ right-handed swing has been coming around this year. He’s hitting for a higher average as a right-hander — .224 from the right versus .181 from the left — and he’s hit half of his eight homers from the right side despite having 130 fewer at-bats as right-hander.
Though Hicks feels golfing helps his baseball swing, it’s tough to get on the course too often during the 162-game major league season. When Hicks does find time to golf, he’s arguably the best golfer on the Twins — but he does have some competition among his teammates.
“I beat him a couple times,” said Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson. “When I’m hitting good, then I can hang with him. But if I’m not hitting it good and he’s hitting it decent, he’s pretty good.”
Gibson isn’t the only one who has challenged Hicks on the golf course. Second baseman Brian Dozier, a former high school golfer, can also hang with Hicks. He’s also played with pitchers Anthony Swarzak, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia at various times.
“He makes it tough to play with because of how far he hits it,” Gibson said. “He makes me feel like a little girl when I’m up there just hitting 275 and he’s 50 yards ahead of me on the fairway and he’s just laughing at me.”
Unlike Hicks, Gibson has never hit a hole-in-one, although he’s come within a few feet. He’s certainly nowhere near Hicks’ five career holes-in-one — a number that almost sounds too good to be true.
“That is believable,” Gibson said. “His swing is very consistent, so he takes the same swing a lot, which in golf is tough to do, especially if you don’t get to play a whole lot. It’s fun to play with him, there’s no doubt about that.”