Huggins on par in return


Junior men’s golfer Nick Huggins follows through on a swing at the Northern Intercollegiate Sept. 5-7 in Sugar Grove. Huggins made his return to the Huskies after nearly a year away while recovering from a pair of surgeries for a torn labrum.

By Steve Shonder

Junior Nick Huggins is back on course for men’s golf after undergoing a pair of surgeries on a torn labrum that set his career back a year.

For years, Huggins played golf with tightness in his hips that limited much of his game. Instead of getting it checked out, Huggins and everyone around him assumed it was just a quirk with his body.

During the fall 2013 season, Huggins finally checked out the “quirk” after beginning to rebuild his swing with head coach Tom Porten. The diagnosis was a torn labrum, which required surgery. Now with repaired hips, Huggins is making strides on the golf course as he tries to go beyond his previous performances.

“I started to get lazy on my swings,” Huggins said. “But you can tell the results now. I mean, it still hasn’t been a year since the surgery and I still have that dead spot on my hip where it’s numb. But I’ve been getting progressively better. My hips were tight to begin with. Everyone just thought that’s how they were, and I didn’t use them.”

The surgery Huggins underwent is a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure that also required the surgeon to reshape the bone to prevent any further labral tears.

Without the limitations Huggins’ injury caused, he’s able to do a lot more with the golf ball. Porten said Huggins is finally able to play like he’s been expected to.

“He had limited mobility in his hips,” Porten said. “He was only swinging with his club and not using his body. Now he has two new hips and the ability to move his body with his swing. He’s hitting a lot [farther] than he ever did before. His size and his swing are matching up. Nick’s a big guy, and he’s finally hitting the ball like he should be.”

When Huggins first got the OK to return to the golf course he said the difference in his play was instantly noticeable.

“I feel like it’s a lot better,” Huggins said. “I was kind of tentative in the beginning. My biggest thing was firing the hips through the golf ball. That way, I’m hitting it far and hard.

“When you move the hips through the ball, you can generate a lot more power. In the beginning of the summer you could see the improvement. I had better contact more consistently with a lot more power on my swing.”

It still hasn’t been an easy return for Huggins. He entered the fall season with high expectations, having participated in high-level tournaments throughout the summer. But the lull between summer tournaments and the fall season allowed Huggins to fall back into some bad habits that plagued him before the surgery.

Huggins was the Huskies’ top finisher at the Wolf Run Intercollegiate Sept. 21, where he carded 233, good for a tie for 48th place. But he failed to sustain that momentum at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational Sept. 29: He finished in 64th place with 239.

While the results aren’t quite there yet, the competitiveness is. Huggins has been working on his play to get where he was when he came out of the gate in the summer. His goal is to continuously put himself in position to win when it’s down to the wire.

“I’ve played in tournaments all summer with kids that are the best in the country and the world,” Huggins said. “I want to win a tournament as a team. I really want to finish top 20, or even higher, top 10 or top five. Basically, I want a chance to win when there’s nine holes left. If you win, great. If you don’t, at least you had that chance to win.”