Strasburg’s Stickles looking to build on freshman success

Austin Stickles, 15, of Strasburg putts outside Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Club during a recent practice session. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – One of the keys to Austin Stickles’ success is a good song.

The Strasburg sophomore golfer likes to have a song stuck in his head while he plays to help him relax.

“Usually when I’m focused a lot of times I have a song stuck in my head and that just kind of calms me down so I don’t get too tense before a shot,” Stickles said. “If I heard something on the road down to the tournament, that would just stick in my head and stay there the whole day.”

Stickles said one day he was just playing and a song got stuck in his head and it helped his game, so he tries to do it all the time. He said it’s usually a country song, but he doesn’t have any favorites.

Two years ago, Stickles joined Strasburg’s golf team as the team manager and he said it was a valuable experience for him.

“It was fun. I got to know the team,” Stickles said. “It let me know what it was going to be like.”

Stickles took that year’s experience and ran with it. As a freshman last year, Stickles led the team most of the year and advanced to the Group 2A state tournament.

He said that the seniors last year helped him out a lot.

“I had a lot of good seniors last year. They taught me how to play properly,” Stickles said.

Stickles also plays baseball and wrestles at Strasburg, but said that golf has become his favorite sport.

He said that his goal at the start of last year was just to be in the top six on Strasburg’s team. Stickles did much better than expected as he advanced to the regional tournament at Kiskiack Golf Club in Williamsburg, where he shot an 80 and finished in eighth place.

He then went to the Group 2A state tournament at Golden Eagle Golf Club in Irvington and shot a two-day total of 181.

“There was a lot of people there, and I was actually lucky to play in my group with the kid that actually won the Group 2A individual state title,” Stickles said. “So I got to see how good you have to be to win it, and he was really good.”

Stickles said that making the state tournament last year gives him motivation to get back there this year.

Stickles said he plays about four times a week during the summer and goes to the driving range about twice a week in the winter.

He said that he works with Shenandoah Valley Golf Club pro David Oates, and that he’s learned a lot from him.

Former Strasburg golf coach Jordan Hardy said that Stickles’ work ethic has been one of the keys to his success on the golf course.

“He’s a really hard working kid. He works on his game a lot by himself. He’s not a kid that you have to tell to go and practice,” Hardy said. “He works on his game enough and plays enough to know when he has a weak spot, and then he goes out and works on it on his own. … Another thing that I think makes him really good is he has the right attitude. He has the attitude of an athlete. He takes things in stride, which is good in golf because you’re going to have some ups and downs. He’s never real high or real low. He seems to enjoy playing and takes everything in stride.”

Hardy said that Stickles also knows his game very well and does a good job of being consistent and hitting the ball straight.

The Rams start their season today in the Curly Lickliter Tournament at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club. First-year coach Joel Morgan said that he’s looking forward to the season. He said that the team will be young, and that can be both good and bad.

“The good is the kids are going to be out there really competing, trying to get one of those spots,” Morgan said. “The bad is maybe from a match standpoint we don’t have those veteran guys, maybe, that have been in the trenches a little bit and have played some tough rounds, things like that. I think all in all we have a good mix of kids coming back.”

Stickles said he’s looking forward to the season, and helping out some of the younger players. He said that he thinks the team can still have some success.

“As a young team, I’m just hoping that we can make it to the conference tournament and qualify for the regional tournament,” Stickles said. “Then maybe even come in the top two in the region and qualify for state as a team. That would be really nice.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com