GREENSBORO — Ours is a golf town, a city that grew up along with the game, courses sprinkled among the landscape.
So it’s somewhat surprising that Lawrence Hicks is just the second person from Greensboro elected president of the Carolinas Golf Association in its 107-year history, the first since Sedgefield’s T.D. Blair held the office in 1930 and ’31.
Two months into his two-year term, Hicks is still settling into his role as the face of the CGA.
It’s a friendly face. Hicks smiles often and makes conversation easily between swallows of coffee, swapping stories about family and friends, old cars — he still misses that Oldsmobile Cutlass from the 1960s — and the Greensboro of his youth, Boy Scouts and golf.
He learned the game as a boy in his backyard on Hammel Road, swinging clubs with his father, Richard, a one-time college player at North Carolina. Hicks is 63 now, a retired entrepreneur who worked a variety of jobs. The careers changed, but golf was a constant companion.
“This is a chance to give back,” Hicks says. “It’s a real privilege, humbling to be elected to this position, because the game is a lot bigger than I am. ... I’m proud to be a spokesman for and promoter of the CGA.”
The CGA is massive, the second-largest group of its kind in the United States with more than 700 member golf courses in North and South Carolina representing an estimated 150,000 amateur players.
The mission is simple: Promote the game, teach the rules and organize events. A lot of events.
“If the sun’s coming up,” Hicks says, “there’s a pretty good chance the CGA is running an event somewhere in the Carolinas. This year, we’re running 243 events.”
Those include the CGA’s major tournaments, high-profile events for low-handicap players such as the North Carolina Amateur, the N.C. Mid-Amateur, the N.C. Women’s Amateur and the N.C. Senior championships.
“But it’s a lot more than what we call our majors,” Hicks says. “For instance, we’ll have about 50 one-day four-ball tournaments. We run one-day senior events. We have women’s events. We run the Tarheel Youth Golf Association for kids younger than 16.”
Hicks pauses and grins.
“We’ve got a lot going on. We run a lot of golf tournaments. We teach a lot of rules seminars.”
As CGA president, Hicks leads a 12-member executive committee. Six from North Carolina. Six from South Carolina. All volunteers.
He sits on every CGA committee, and he works with the association’s full-time staff of 15 paid employees based in a headquarters across the street from Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines.
And he still finds time to play. Hicks and partner Gus Sylvan of Columbia, S.C., missed the cut by two shots 10 days ago at the 48th Carolinas Senior Four-Ball Amateur Championship tournament in Raleigh.
“I’m in the twilight of a mediocre career as a player,” Hicks deadpans. “I’ve had some success, and I’m proud of that. In CGA events, I’ve had a number of top-10s. The only things I ever won in the CGA were a sub-junior title and a couple of qualifying events. But I’ve never won a major title.”
Part of that is dumb luck. Hicks is one year younger than Paul Simson, an insurance executive from Raleigh who has won more than 200 amateur tournaments, including a CGA-record 29 majors. Simson was elected to the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
“I’ve been competing against him all my life,” Hicks says. “... Nobody won much of anything on the PGA Tour when Tiger Woods was in his prime, and nobody won much of anything in Paul Simson’s (CGA) age group.”
Even so, Hicks is no slouch. His handicap is 2.5, and he’s won the club championship at the Greensboro Country Club eight times.
“I’ve played in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the British Amateur,” he says. “Those aren’t easy to get into. I’m a decent player, but I’m no world-beater.”
Maybe not. But Hicks is a leader, something he learned young on his journey to become an Eagle Scout.
“Scouting is all about leadership,” Hicks says. “It meant a lot to me when I achieved (Eagle Scout), and it still means a lot to me today. I have so many good memories from Scouting. And I admire the men — important men — who took time out of their lives to be merit badge counselors or troop leaders. ... It all made an impression on me.”
Hicks has stayed involved in Scouting. He’s a past chairman of Eagle board of review and has served on the board for the last 25 years.
“I really believe in giving back,” Hicks says. “That’s what I’m doing with Boy Scouts. And that’s what I’m trying to do in golf with the CGA.”