Barret Pickering plays the front nine at Highlands Golf Course in Lincoln regularly enough, and he was playing well last Monday, so he stepped into the tee box at the par-3 No. 8 with some confidence.
Even still, he couldn’t have expected what followed.
“I kind of just knew what club to grab and gave it a nice rip at the pin and it went in,” Pickering, Nebraska's sophomore kicker, told the Journal Star.
From 131 yards away with a 54-degree wedge, to be precise, for his first hole-in-one.
“Me and (long-snapper Chase Urbach) were kind of in disbelief at first because we saw the ball just disappear,” Pickering said. “We were just in shock that it went in.”
Sure enough, it did. Pickering said the ball hit a few feet in front of the pin, released and rolled right toward a memorable moment.
“I just had a big smile on my face,” he said. “It was just a Monday morning, so we couldn’t go that crazy or anything, but it was pretty cool.”
The reward? An afternoon strength and conditioning workout with his teammates. Several already knew thanks to a running group message among the team’s regular golfers, a lot that includes quarterback Adrian Martinez, defensive back Eric Lee, tight end Jack Stoll, running back Brody Belt, linebacker Jake Archer, offensive lineman Will Farniok and several others.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Pickering currently feels pretty good about his standing.
“I’d like to say that I’m the best one on the team,” he said with just a hint of sheepishness. “Maybe (offensive lineman) John Raridon. He’s pretty good.”
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Not only did Pickering ace No. 8, he capped off the bogey-free front nine with a 33, which he thought was probably his best mark on the local course.
Life’s pretty good, then, for the Hoover, Alabama, native. Pickering struggled to find his footing early on as a true freshman kicker in the Big Ten, missing an extra point and four of his first eight field-goal tries over his first six career games. After a second-half miss against Northwestern on Oct. 13, though, Pickering turned his season around in a big way, converting on his final 10 field-goal attempts to finish 14-of-18 on the season.
His biggest performance came on Senior Day at Memorial Stadium in the November wind and snow against Michigan State. Pickering hit from 36, 20 and 47 in the final 11 minutes, 6 seconds to erase a 6-0 deficit and turn it into a 9-6 win.
Which is more difficult, standing over a tee shot or lining up a 47-yarder in a tie game with a cross wind and 88,793 onlookers?
“Maybe the tee shot I guess, because I don’t play golf nearly as much as I kick,” Pickering said.
Needless to say, it takes a different skillset to kick a ball and to hit a golf ball, but Pickering said he thinks there are at least some similar components to the two disciplines.
“There are very similar mental calculations like reading wind and reading greens and stuff like that,” he said.
All in all, life’s not all that much different for Pickering since the hole-in-one. He is playing more golf, though. And every time he leaves to go play a round, Martinez, the sophomore quarterback and one of Pickering’s roommates, makes sure to dial up the pressure a little bit.
“Now he always asks me when I’m about to go out and play if I’m going to get another one,” Pickering said with a laugh. “But I don’t think that will happen again for a very long time.”