Damon Dickey’s mentality drives him “fore” success

Sophomore men’s golfer Damon Dickey posted eight-under-par at the Sacred Heart Spring Invitational from March 9-10. Photo by Grace Hensley. 

JIA SKRUDLAND | SPORTS REPORTER | jskrudland@butler.edu 

While most college athletes find a passion for their sport at a young age, that was not the case for sophomore golfer Damon Dickey

Dickey loved competing in basketball as a kid growing up and joined any type of athletics that he could get his hands on. He did not find a love for golf until later in his teenage years and it was not because of having “that feeling.” 

“We moved later in my life, and we lived on a golf course,” Dickey said. “I would spend a lot of time out there because I just found it fun to kind of go out and put hard work into something and see results.” 

After Dickey spent more time on the golf course seeing rapid improvement, he began to take his play to the next level.

“I got a little bit more serious once I started playing high school golf,” Dickey said. “[I] started playing summer tournaments when I was 15 or so and just found that I really enjoyed improving in something. It’s kind of an untraditional path to loving golf. Some people pick up the club and they are just infatuated with the game. I just loved putting in the work to see a result.” 

Although Dickey was a latecomer to golf, he saw the results pay off immediately in his young career when he won his county’s tournament as a freshman in high school. Competing against golfers who were already committed to college proved that he could play against some of the best. 

Now five years later, Dickey continues to shine on the golf course as both a teammate and a player. 

At the Sacred Heart Invitational on March 9-10 in Daytona Beach, Florida, Dickey broke Butler’s single-round record on a par-72 course with a score of 64 (-8). Only three Bulldogs before him have been able to accomplish a remarkable six under par at 66

Butler men’s golf head coach Colby Huffman acknowledged that Dickey’s work ethic allowed him to play his best round this season. 

“It really, honestly, it didn’t surprise me,” Huffman said. “I was happy for him, of course. Because of the work he puts in and his planning and preparation … you just kind of expect [the results] to come. When it did, it was kind of like ‘yep, there it is.’” 

Just like accomplishing something remarkable as a high school freshman, breaking this record was another step in building his motivation. 

“I think that’s really cool,” Dickey said. “Right now, I just tried to use it as a confidence builder and to prove [to] myself that the work that I’m putting in is paying off. It’s a big confidence booster.” 

Golf is mostly an individual game that requires players to have a strong mental attitude compared to a sheer physical approach. Dickey explained how he keeps his mental toughness throughout a round. 

“With a bad hole, I just try to think about it as a range of outcomes and understand that there’s going to be bad holes, there’s going to be good holes,” Dickey said. “You just can’t let yourself get too down or too up. I think that’s really helped me.” 

First-year golfer Connor McKneely rarely sees Dickey lose focus of his mental game, indicating that as one of his factors for success. 

“I never see him really get frustrated on the course,” McKneely said. “He’s always grinding. During a round, he might start out poorly, but he’ll get back on track and shoot a really solid number. If he’s playing well, he’ll keep playing well throughout the round. I think a lot of that’s mental.”

Dickey agrees with McKneely that having the right headspace has allowed him to continue to improve as a golfer. 

“I wouldn’t say I’m the best player at anything in one individual category,” Dickey said. “I would say it’s the balance that I have, being okay at all of them and being proud of being adaptable in a lot of different areas of the game. I would say it’d be like adaptability or the mental side of it.” 

Outside of succeeding on the course, Dickey has become a leader for the team by striving for success. With his past experience of playing basketball that required the teammate mentality, he has been able to take what he learned then and apply it to his golf game. 

“I feel like that has helped me with some of the golf guys because I’ve learned how to talk to them and motivate them and figure out when they want help and when they don’t,” Dickey said. 

McKneely pointed out that Dickey’s own personal motivation also encourages the team to practice past their “time limit” as he stays an extra hour to perfect his game. 

Despite Dickey only being a sophomore, Coach Huffman has already seen him grow as a team leader describing his leadership using a boat analogy. 

“If everyone was in a boat … [Dickey would] be the guy that would carry the boat,” Huffman said.  “We’re all trying to go to the same destination. You see some teams or some groups and if they’re in a boat, one guy is trying to row and one guy’s like looking over here and there’s no real plan. [Dickey] kind of gets everyone on a direction and carries the boat.” 

One way Dickey helps steer the boat is by helping the first years feel more comfortable competing at the next level and adjusting to the change. While Dickey excels on the course with great golf skills, McKneely particularly admires the other aspect of his game. 

“I just admire how he acts as a leader,” McKneely said. “He’s helped the freshmen get closer with the team. He brings the team together. He acts as a rock. If you need any help, you can always go up to him and ask him for anything. He’s a great person to go to outside of just golf. He’s always open to talk.” 

The final destination that Dickey hopes to lead the team to is claiming the Big East championship title later this month when the team heads to South Carolina. 

“That would give us an exemption into the regional tournament, which is like the NCAA tournament for basketball and stuff like that,” Dickey said. “That would help us advance and give us a chance at a national title. Also, because those are the teams that we play all the time, these Big East teams, it’s obviously just an important goal to us. It’s attainable, and we just feel that if we could win that, that would show that we gave our best effort and that we drew the most out of our abilities.” 


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