Talented RGS golfer wins US university scholarship

A RIPON Grammar School student and promising golfer has been awarded a $100,000 athletic scholarship at an American university, taking him one step closer to his dream of playing at the highest levels.

William Hixon, from Ripon, will be heading to Bluefield State University in West Virginia, the third star athlete from RGS to be snapped up by a US university.

The 17-year-old, who currently captains Harrogate and District Union of Golf Clubs and has a handicap of 0.8, was pursued by several American universities.

He chose Bluefield, where annual fees are nearly $30,000, after beating off stiff competition from more than 1,000 applicants to win one of just ten coveted scholarships on a prestigious golfing programme headed up by British coach Samuel Berry.

In addition to the outstanding training and practice facilities, William was attracted by the exciting sporting schedule, which includes regional and national championships and tournaments in Hawaii, Florida and San Francisco.

The teenager, who has been selected for Yorkshire U16s three times and won the Harrogate and District junior championships two years' running, also had to pass rigorous academic tests to win his place at the university.

“I am very excited to start in August. It seems an excellent fit for both golf and studies for the next four years,” said William.

Coach Berry said: “These opportunities are few and far between. But after analysing William's profile and studying his swing videos it was clear I wanted him on the team. William is not only an exceptional student, but also an outstanding golfer. He has raw talent and the sky is the limit for this young man."

Students from all over the world have been competing for places: “I have over a thousand applicants seeking out these opportunities but only ten spots open on my roster. Currently I have men and women from six different countries," said Coach Berry.

“William will be joining this competitive, diverse group of men and women this August. We are very excited for this opportunity for William, and we know how hard he has worked both athletically in golf and academically in the classroom.

“As a university golf coach, I pride myself on pushing my athletes to become the best versions of themselves. My goal with William is to prepare him for a career in professional golf after his four years with me. I believe in dream chasing and that with hard work, dedication, and the correct leadership anything is possible. William has all the attributes to play golf at the highest of levels.”

William’s mother Jackie recalls her son playing golf before he started primary school: “He was swinging cut-down clubs in the back garden when he was four and got his first junior set of clubs by the time he was five.”

By seven years old, William had joined his local golf club, where interested juniors enjoy regular lessons with golf professionals.

But he didn’t take golf seriously until five years later, when he decided he didn’t want to play rugby anymore, became a junior member at Ripon City in 2018 and invested in some better golf clubs.

In his first full season the following year he reduced his handicap from 26 to 7. It was after doing some research, he realised that with some good GCSE results and an improving golf handicap, he could pursue a scholarship in the US.

So, with the help of coach Steve Robinson from Sandburn Hall near York, William worked hard on his swing, along with improving his strength and conditioning, and showed true grit and determination as he continued to train outside the golfing season during the cold, dark winter months.

William’s father Peter, a former RGS student and keen golfer, who has been Ripon Club Champion three times and once boasted a handicap of two, admits he has high hopes for his son: “He’s got a decent swing, he’s strong and dedicated with the right temperament. He’s definitely got what it takes.”

*Mena Scatchard, one of the fastest young middle-distance runners in the UK, was awarded a £250,000 scholarship to study at Princeton University in New Jersey. Christa Wilson, ranked in Britain’s top four for the 200m butterfly, was awarded a full scholarship at Grand Canyon University in Arizona.

William receiving the 2022 Junior Champs. Trophy from HDU Junior Manager Julian Knowles