After making a name for himself at Wheaton Academy, the St. Charles native has carried his success to UNLV
Who is Blake Biddle? And how has he flown under radar for so long?
Well, it’s time to shine the spotlight on this exceptional golfer from Wheaton Academy. He certainly deserves it. Consider that as an 18-year-old as a senior he shot a 63 in a high school tournament at St. Andrews, breaking a course record that that had stood for 60 years.
Biddle, who is now 19, grew up in St. Charles. While attending Wheaton Academy, he piled up an impressive golf résumé. He won more than 20 high school tournaments and also had two top-10 finishes in the Illinois Open. Nationally in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA),
Biddle had 10 top-15 finishes over the past three years.
Biddle has carried this success to the collegiate level at UNLV. In 2011, he was named the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year after posting a 72.91 stroke average.
Chicago Area Golf publisher Val Russell caught up with Biddle recently in Nevada where he had just qualified at the first stage of the U.S. Open with a 73. Next up is the U.S. Open sectional, which is June 6 at St. Charles Country Club.
“I’ve played [at St. Charles Country Club] a number of rounds, so I feel comfortable that at least I have some familiarity with the course,” Biddle said of the sectional.
Here’s what Biddle had to say on a number of other topics:
Russell: When did you start playing golf?
Biddle: Probably when I was three or four years old. My dad was really a baseball player, but he liked golf and I ended up following him around on the golf course at an early age, and I really enjoyed it.
Russell: So you played Illinois Juniors Golf?
Biddle: I really only played the state junior golf one year. I started getting serious at about 13 or 14 years old and then played in some larger events.
Russell: So your Wheaton Academy record at state doesn’t seem so outstanding to you? When did you start on the high school team, and what were some of your exceptional achievements in high school?
Biddle: I started as a freshman, and I think I won a couple tournaments that first year. I always played well throughout high school but just didn’t seem to play well at state. I think over the four years, I probably won 10 or 11 tournaments. I won [five out of nine events played senior year], but not at state.
Russell: So you achievements over this same time were more on a national scale than local?
Biddle: I started working with [Prairie Landing teaching pro] Brian King when I was 13. At 14, I was playing really well at national events. I think I had eight top 15’s in AJGA events with four or five top 10s. Through high school, I could really play in most top-ranked amateur events that I wanted.
Russell: At what stage did you realize that you had a special talent and abilities in golf?
Biddle: When I was 16, I realized there weren’t many people locally who I couldn’t beat playing golf, and I also realized I could play with anyone nationally.
Russell: How old were you when you first broke par?
Biddle: From the tips? I think 13. Up until then, when you played junior events, we played from the upper tees. But at 13 to 14, we started playing courses in the 7,000-yard range.
Russell: High school students begin looking at colleges in between their sophomore and junior years. What schools were you looking at, and which ones were chasing you?
Biddle: Most of the larger schools showed some interest. I was originally looking at the Big Ten, but later I narrowed it down to schools like Wake Forrest, North Carolina, SMU, Texas A&M, and UNLV. UNLV was the place that I thought I could get the most out of my golf potential and where I could improve the most. I committed pretty early, and I was real comfortable with what UNLV offered in the way of scholarship and their program.
Russell: During your local golfing experiences, what event really tested your skills?
Biddle: It had to be the Illinois Open 2007 when I was 16, I was leading after the first round. I shot 30 on the front nine and 37 on the back. That was probably when I first felt serious pressure on the golf course. That was a good test of my golf skills and nerves, and I handled it really well, which gave me a great deal of confidence. I ended up taking fifth place overall.
Russell: Did you get to play with University of Illinois golf coach Mike Small? And I can’t believe he didn’t try and recruit you.
Biddle: I got to play with Coach Small during the first two rounds of the 2009 Illinois Open and got to know him from several tournaments. I took 10th place that year. Coach Small is an awesome coach, and Illinois has an awesome program. It was just that I wanted to play somewhere I could golf outside all year. For me, all the teams in the Big Ten had the limitation of being up north. They just couldn’t compete with the Southern schools.
Russell: Just finishing up your freshman year, how is college life? And how are your grades?
Biddle: A lot different from high school, but my first semester I had a 3.6 grade point average. We travel a lot, but schoolwork has come pretty good so far.
Russell: What was your favorite tournament this year?
Biddle: We played Oklahoma State for the National Championship Preview Tournament in October, where the National Championships is going to be. The top 15 preseason-rated teams were invited. It was pretty cool ’cause you had all the top programs, all the big dogs, and you’re playing on one of the toughest courses in the country.
Russell: In college golf, it is an individual as well as a team process. Were you able to play in most events, how did that work for you?
Biddle: I played every event this year. We have five guys who travel to each tournament. I was playing as number three for us all year. As a freshman playing on the active team, that was pretty cool.
Russell: Future goals?
Biddle: One of my top goals is to become an All-American.
Russell: Who would you credit with helping you or pushing you to your current level?
Biddle: My dad. He’s always been awesome through everything. He has always encouraged me and never pressured me for anything. He just said you’ve got to enjoy it. He’s as competitive a person as you will meet, but he said through everything that you have to enjoy it. When you stop enjoying it, it’s not a game anymore.
Russell: Who would you credit most with helping to develop your golf skills?
Biddle: Brian [King] has helped me a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Brian. It’s nice because I’ve really developed a really good relationship with Brian—he a really good friend of mine. He’s really helped me with the ups and downs of golf. I’ll call him from school when I’ve been struggling with my swing, and he’s come to one of my tournaments in Arizona. He’s been awesome. Whether it’s my swing or my mind set on the course, he has helped me with everything. CG