Kramer Hickok has grown accustomed to finding success on the golf course. He was an accomplished junior player and helped Trinity Christian Academy to four straight Texas private school state titles along with best friend Tucker Wadkins, who also is in this week's Players Amateur field.
So it's no surprise that Hickok has taken quickly to finding success in the amateur ranks, as well.
In his first summer playing a full slate of amateur events, the 19-year-old from Plano, Texas, already has a tie for fifth at the Rice Planters Amateur and a tie for ninth at the Texas State Amateur.
Now he's poised to add another impressive finish -- perhaps even a victory -- at the Players Amateur after shooting 4-under-par 68 on Friday to get to 6 under, two shots behind leader Corbin Mills.
"Being in the lead would be great, but two shots back is right in it," said Hickok, who will play at the University of Texas next season. "If you're two shots back even in the last five holes, it's a whole different ball game."
Hickok was within one shot of the lead until a bogey at No. 17, and if he can keep hitting it straight off the tee -- he estimates he has only missed three fairways through 36 holes -- he likes his chances to add another strong finish to an already solid summer.
"This is what it's all about, working on trying to become a pro some day," Hickok said. "This is part of it. Moving up the leaderboard and moving up the rankings and stuff. I'm enjoying it."
TOO LATE TO GO LOW?
The old saying goes that you can't win the tournament on Thursday, but you can lose it then.
Several players seemed determined to test that belief Friday.
New Zealand's Ben Campbell posted the best round of the tournament so far with a 6-under-par 66 in the second round, enough to get him into a tie for 13th despite an opening round of 76. Campbell made six consecutive birdies to shoot 31 on the back nine.
Campbell wasn't the only one who made a big move up the leaderboard Friday. Chase Parker of Augusta, Ga., followed his opening 78 with a 69 to move into a tie for 45th, and Australian Tarquin Macmanus shot 69 after an opening 82 and is tied for 57th.
Oddly enough, the Players Amateur has been dominated in recent years by golfers from Oklahoma State University. Three of the past five champions -- Jonathan Moore in 2006, Rickie Fowler in 2007 and Kevin Tway last year -- were Cowboys.
But it appears a new school could join the ranks of Players Amateur champions.
Clemson (Corbin Mills), Texas (Kramer Hickok), Northwestern (Eric Chun), California (Max Homa and Byeong-Hun An), Texas A&M (Jordan Russell), Georgia Tech (James White), Florida State (Brooks Koepka) and Stanford (Patrick Rodgers) are all represented in the top 10 going into the weekend.
Of course, all those schools could be shut out if one of the three Australians in the top 10 -- Kalem Richardson, Todd Sinnott and Cameron Smith -- joins Aron Price as the second player from Down Under to win at Belfair.