By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
When West Ranch High graduate Jack Dudeck arrives at The Master’s University this fall for his first season of collegiate golf, he’ll be playing under a new head coach.
Master’s announced this month that Jacob Hicks, an all-conference golfer while at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, will succeed Jason Semelsberger as the program’s leader.
Hicks is the third coach in the program’s 18-year history.
Semelsberger, who took the reins in 2007 and led the team to three straight conference titles in recent years, said last week he feels the team is in more-than-capable hands.
“He’s an answer to prayer,” said Semelsberger, who stepped down from coaching to focus on his family, commit more time to his church and to take on more responsibility as a development officer at TMU. “Serving as the coach and leading the program for the last decade, I really had a burden on my heart to make sure we could pass on the program and have it carried forward in an excellent way for the Lord’s glory, and Jacob really came to us, I think, directly from the Lord.”
Hicks, who grew up in Mebane, North Carolina, was an all-conference pick at NCAA Division 1 East Carolina as a junior and senior. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2016, he briefly played professional golf, but ultimately decided against a grueling path toward the PGA Tour. He then interned for 11 months with College Golf Fellowship, a relational ministry focused on college and professional golfers.
“How that works is we go to a campus and hang out with a team, play golf with them and then typically have a Bible study,” Hicks said. “We did local discipleship and went to tournaments to see different teams and host a tournament study after the practice round.”
Hicks’ boss with College Golf Fellowship was Korky Kemp, a former pro who qualified for two PGA events and several Web.com Tour events. Kemp echoed Hicks’ readiness for the position.
Kemp also highlighted Hicks’ pedigree: namely his growing up as the son of veteran PGA Tour caddie Mike Hicks, who was on the bag for Payne Stewart during the golfer’s 1999 U.S. Open victory.
“It gives him a unique perspective of seeing firsthand how to influence world-class golfers,” said Kemp.
Hicks said he believes his experience at East Carolina will help him guide a team that graduated two key seniors but will return a strong core of three veterans, along with newcomers like Dudeck, who helped West Ranch win its ninth Foothill League title in the last 11 years this spring.
“I just know what it takes to improve and get better,” Hicks said. “I’ve been around great players for a long time. I’ve seen what it takes on the course, off the course, being mentally prepared going into a tournament. … Being around great players, they kind of rub off on you. You learn new things. I was never really afraid to ask, ‘Hey, what does it take?’ I love learning.”
Menez mows down the Fightin Phils
In one of his most electric performances as a professional baseball player to date, Master’s alum Conner Menez struck out 10 batters in 5 2/3 shutout innings on Friday. The lefty led San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate to a 2-1 win over the Reading Fightin Phils (Pa.), allowing four hits and one walk.
In 45 1/3 innings at Double-A Richmond this year, Menez holds a 3.57 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 17 walks. He has also seen action at High-A and Triple-A this season and has posted a 4.26 ERA across all levels. Henry Schulman, the Giants beat writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted this on Friday: “Name to Watch: lefty Conner Menez. K’d 10 in 5.2 (shutout) innings tonight for AA Richmond. 14th-rounder in 2016 from Hollister. 23 years old. Look at his three prior starts too.”
In Menez’s last three starts, he’s allowed three earned runs in 19 innings with 26 strikeouts and four walks.
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