Craig Hocknull: Crikey! The assistant pro at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club is creating quite a buzz with his Outback Golf Show. Like most trick-shot artists who offer an array of amazing shots, Hocknull has more than a few.
But the big difference between the Outback Golf Show and most of the rest is, “We’re a show-show, so it’s entertaining and informative rather than just a golf-shot exhibition.’’
“It’s all about how I grew up in the Outback, and the stories that go with that,’’ added the 31-year-old Hocknull, who was born in New Guinea and raised in the Northern Territory of Australia before finally settling in Darwin. “I learned to play golf while living in the Outback, where my father was a patrol officer who worked for the Australian government.’’
But somehow, some way, Hocknull worked his way to the United States in 1993 after sending out resumes to 30 Sunbelt schools. He ended up at Jackson (Miss.) State, a predominantly minority school, after also being offered a golf scholarship at Grand Canyon University.
“I knew (Jackson State) was a minority school, but I didn’t know it was a minority school with a black enrollment of 80 to 90 percent. That was a bit of a surprise,’’ Hocknull admitted. “But it wouldn’t have mattered any way, because as a little kid, we were a family of four in a village of New Guinea that was made up of 5,000 black people. So I already knew a little bit about being a minority.’’
At Jackson State, Hocknull helped the school win its first conference championship — four straight years. As the “No. 1 or No. 2 guy’’ he also played a key role in taking the school to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. After playing the Prairie Golf Tour, he took a job as director of instruction at Yuma Golf and Country Club before ultimately moving to the East Valley five years ago.
How Hocknull got into the trick-shot business is another story. “I always had a lot of fun hitting weird shots, and I liked to emulate guys like Wedgy Winchester and ‘The Hit Man’ (Chuck Hiter),’’ Hocknull said of the pioneers in that field. “I found out that I could do it, too, and I used to practice my act, so to speak, on students who I was teaching when I worked for Resort Golf Schools at Gold Canyon.’’
Soon Hocknull added an Aussie-styled outfit complete with cowboy hat and khakis to his “Down Under’’ accent, and — viola! — the Outback Golf Show was born. Among his tools of the trade are drivers that range from one to seven feet long, as well as a didgeridoo, an elongated wooden wind instrument that is played in his homeland by native aborigines.
“I use four didgeridoos to serve as tubes that volunteers use to release the balls, which then roll down the tubes, bounce off the ground, and I hit them one at a time right down the line,’’ Hocknull said. “I also have a Goanna lizard — the big rubber version that looks like a Komodo dragon — as part of the act, and the kids love that, too.’’
Recently, Hocknull charmed those who came out for a special Golf Fest at the First Tee of Phoenix. His next outing is scheduled for Oct. 7, when he will be at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix for an exhibition benefiting the Special Olympics. To catch a preview of Hocknull’s act, visit www.outbackgolfshow.com.
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Arizona upended: The Utah Golf Association ended a four-year losing streak by beating the Arizona Golf Association, 38 1/2 - 33 1/2, in the 16th Arizona-Utah Shootout, which was held over the weekend at Laughlin Ranch Golf Club in Bullhead City. Posting winning records for the AGA were Guy Gedeon of Chandler and former Arizona State player Tui Selvaratnam, who each earned 5 1/2 points. The series now stands at 8-8.
London advances: Laura London, the Scottsdale golfer featured in last week’s Tribune, advanced to the second episode of The Golf Channel’s “The Big Break VI: Trump National.’’ London, who had a party for family and friends at a Scottsdale pub Tuesday night to watch the first episode, said she was “really, really nervous’’ before Karin Storvahl — Miss Minnesota 2005 — was eliminated. “One down and eight (episodes) to go — if I make it all the way,’’ she said coyly of the nine-part series that runs through early December.