Multi-sport athlete finds passion in playing more than golf
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Editor's note: This story originally ran in the Feb. 15 issue of Golfweek.
HOUSTON — Travis Vick wants to do it all: pitch, slide, throw, tackle and putt for glory. In an age of one-sport wonders, the 15-year-old freshman hopes to become a four-year juggernaut in football, baseball and golf at Houston’s Second Baptist School.
“I’m still young,” he said. “I don’t want to have any regrets.”
At a recent gathering at the Vick family’s elegant home in the Memorial district just west of downtown, about a wedge shot from the school’s parking lot, three varsity coaches sat around a fire pit enjoying sweet tea and brisket. Inside, athletic director Jeff Schroeder talked about the importance of open dialogue among the coaches concerning Vick, particularly this spring, when he plays baseball and golf in overlapping seasons. The goal is simple: Keep the student-athlete out of the middle.
“Really, we’re swimming in uncharted water on this, and it’s a great opportunity,” said Schroeder, who won four state championships as a baseball coach at Second Baptist before becoming A.D.
“Do we have all the answers on this? No. We have a 15-year-old young man who has barely even reached puberty, who has some great skill sets in golf, and loves football, loves baseball. We need to come alongside as adults and, not knowing what the future holds, we’ve got to allow that to happen. We’ve lost some of that.”
Vick enjoyed a breakout summer last year in golf, thanks in large part to family friend Hal Sutton, a four-time Ryder Cup player who won 14 times on the PGA Tour. Sutton, who mostly helps with the mental game, said the powerful Vick, at 5 feet, 11 inches and 185 pounds, has improved distance control with his irons. Vick stands No. 2 in his class in the Golfweek/Sagarin Junior Rankings.
“I think Travis has unlimited potential,” Sutton said. “He’s strong. He’s got an unbelievable demeanor for playing golf. He doesn’t get rattled easily.”
Mark Adickes, an orthopedic surgeon, has a son in Vick’s class at Second Baptist who plays football. Adickes, who played offensive guard for the 1992 Super Bowl-champion Washington Redskins, said Vick was the best player on the field on both sides of the ball – as quarterback and linebacker – in middle school and JV football. Vick played backup quarterback on varsity this past fall.
“I think he’s good enough that if he really wanted to get a scholarship in baseball and football, he could do that as well,” Adickes said. (Vick played power forward on the eighth-grade basketball team but gave up the sport in high school.)
Second Baptist, the alma mater of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican presidential candidate, boasts two former Major League Baseball players on its coaching staff: Lance Berkman and Andy Pettitte. Berkman, a six-time MLB All-Star, became head coach last June and turned to Pettite, a former Yankees and Astros teammate with five World Series titles, as an assistant.
“I’d like to have Travis on the baseball team as long as I can have him,” said Berkman, who selected Vick to varsity in January. Like Adickes, Berkman said Vick, who pitches and plays third base, has the potential to earn scholarships in all three sports. But he also thinks that if the PGA Tour is Vick’s ultimate goal, then he’ll have to specialize by the time he gets to college, at the latest.
Second Baptist football coach Terry Pirtle said nothing he has seen on the football field would indicate that Vick is a golfer. A natural-born leader known for his aggressive play, Vick gets so competitive at times on the field that the staff has to pull him back, Pirtle said.
When asked whether he ever worries about injuries, Vick said: “What I’m taught is, if you’re soft on the football field or timid, that’s when you get hurt.”
Vick told football coaches early on that he would miss summer practice for championships such as the U.S. Junior. In October, he even skipped the Lutheran South game – the most important game of the district – to play in an AJGA event in Oregon.
“It’s definitely worth the giving-and-taking aspect,” Pirtle said.
During baseball season, Vick will skip golf practice with the team and practice on his own. (The Vicks have a chipping green and bunker in their backyard. They’re also members at Royal Oaks Country Club.)
During the postseason, high school golf will take precedence, but executive pastor David Dixon said Vick might have to get on a plane to make it back for a baseball game.
Trey Vick and his wife, Amanda, are an upbeat, picture-perfect couple who are eager to help their oldest child succeed. All they asked, Travis said, was that he give 100 percent. The Vicks are high achievers, but the only thing these Texans push on anyone else is a slice of pecan pie.
“If I quit all the sports, (dad) would be OK with it,” Travis said matter-of-factly.
Not surprisingly, everyone has an opinion on when Vick should pack it all in for golf.
Ed Young, the Second Baptist senior pastor who married the Vicks, said Travis has something that he calls “athletic coup”: modest, coachable and cool under pressure. He’s not interested in following the crowd.
“I beg him to quit all these sports and play golf,” Young said, “but he won’t listen to me yet. I told his daddy.”
Problem is, the kid is having too much fun.
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