District 16 athlete among state’s best golfers

Nick Auman, Spring Lake Park High School’s number one golfer, reaffirmed his status as one of the state’s best golfers when he competed in his second-consecutive Class 3A state boys’ golf tournament last week.

Nick Auman hits a few drives off the Bunker Hills driving range. Ball striking is his strongest area, as he routinely hits 280-yard drives from the tee box. Photo by Sue Austreng
Nick Auman hits a few drives off the Bunker Hills driving range. Ball striking is his strongest area, as he routinely hits 280-yard drives from the tee box. Photo by Sue Austreng

For Auman, finishing in the upper half of the field of 88 contenders punctuated his high school athletic career and served as jump start for what’s to come.

Although Auman entered the state tournament feeling his game was “rolling together pretty well,” a tough first day threatened to defeat his confidence.

“The first day … it was tough on the course. Some days things just don’t go your way … you just have to grind it out and start fresh the next day,” Auman said after shooting an 83 on opening day of the June 12 and 13 Class 3A state golf tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course.

Auman approached day two with a fresh attitude and needed only 74 strokes to complete his second-day round, finished the tournament tied for 35th place.

“It wasn’t where I wanted to finish, but I can’t be disappointed with my preparation or my attitude. It’s just the number in the end didn’t turn out to be what I wanted it to be,” Auman said as he looks forward to a summer on the links: golfing in the U.S. Publinks qualifier, hoping to qualify for the state amateur tournament, and competing with his sister in a boy/girl golf tournament.

Specifically, Auman is determined this summer to work on his short game.

“I need to tighten up my swing from 100 yards in. I’ll be working on that,” Auman said.

Early days on the links

Bunker Hills, which served as stage for golf’s Class 3A state tournament, was a fitting place for a climactic end to Auman’s high school athletic career.

You see, Bunker Hills is the course on which Auman first caught the golfing bug.

As a little boy, little Nicky would eagerly grab his cut down Ben Hogan clubs and hit shot after shot from the Bunker Hills driving range.

His four-year old hands wrapped around the hockey taped-grips and the shortened irons sparkling in the afternoon sunshine, little Nicky felt his tummy tingle with the thrill of a long, straight drive.

He knew he’d caught the bug.

With his godfather, local golfing legend and PGA tour veteran George Shortridge, offering tips and tweaks, Nicky’s novice golf swing neared perfection.

Soon, he was happily spending long summer days at Bunker Hills, his mom, Sandy, dropping her nine-year old son off at the links on her way to work and then picking him up on her way home.

“I really love the game – always have. And I’ve really got to give a big thanks to my parents – especially my dad – for all the time and money and connections they’ve put into my game,” Auman said June 8, cooling down inside the Harvest Grill after shooting a practice round on Bunker’s front nine.

One of those connections is the golfer-caddy relationship between Shortridge and Auman’s dad, Bob.

Bob served as caddy for Shortridge when he competed in the U.S. Open back in 1988.

“Dad and George, they’ve been super helpful in coaching me, encouraging me … I’m pretty lucky to have all these great people around me and helping me,” said the state tournament golfer.

Those “great people” include Tiger Woods’ former golf coach Hank Haney, who worked with Auman to perfect his swing during spring break at the TPC Four Seasons in Dallas, Texas. That spring break golf instruction happened when Peter Krause invited Auman to visit the club where Krause serves as director of golf instruction.

Among the other great people surrounding Auman on the golf course is his Panther boys’ golf coach, Will Wackman, who sees Auman as a great golfer, but an even greater person.

“When I think of Nick I think of him as a quality kid, first of all,” said Wackman. “He is a great golfer – the best on our team. He’s a great athlete and a phenomenal golfer, but he’s a better person. I’ve been honored to coach him these last four years.”

This fall Auman will take his golfing prowess to Concordia College, St. Paul, where he has accepted a golf scholarship – half a full ride for four years.

Concordia men’s golf coach Matt Higgins recruited Auman after witnessing the SLPHS junior’s skills on the golf course during last year’s state boys’ golf tournament.

“He saw me and liked what he saw and asked me to consider attending Concordia,” Auman said.

Auman happily accepted and plans to study sports management with a minor in psychology.

A two-sport sensation

While Auman has lettered and been named all-conference all four of his high school golfing seasons, the springtime sport isn’t Auman’s only trophy sport.

The golfing phenom is also a four-year letterman and all-conference athlete for the SLPHS Panther hockey team. And he broke the school scoring record for defensemen, scoring 20 goals and getting 88 assists during his high school hockey career.

Auman had the opportunity to play Division I hockey when he was offered a full scholarship to play for West Point.

He declined that opportunity however, when West Point hockey coaches told him he’d have to devote his first year exclusively to competing in juniors, delaying college course work for one year.

“I didn’t want to put off taking classes for a year, so I said ‘no’ to that,” Auman said.

Hockey coaches at Princeton and at Yale also contacted Auman, expressing their interest in having him play for them, but after carefully considering those offers along with invitations to play golf for the University of South Dakota or for South Dakota State University, Auman ultimately accepted Concordia’s offer and the half-ride scholarship that came along with it.

The 2012 SLPHS graduate plans to study sports management with a psychology minor and, of course, “would like to try to take my golf game as far as I can,” he said.

Sue Austreng is at [email protected]