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NEW YORK – UNCG golfer Robert Hoadley, an All-Southern Conference performer as a freshman in 2010, was further honored for his achievements today when the Amateur Athletic Union named him one of 12 semifinalists for the Sullivan Award, the citation presented annually to the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.
The Sullivan, widely known as the Academy Award of amateur athletics, is "based on qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism," according to the AAU. Predating the Heisman Trophy by five years, it seeks to recognize "strong moral character" in addition to competitive achievements and is open to participants in every AAU-accredited sport.
The field of 12 will be trimmed to an undetermined number of finalists and the winner will be announced in New York on March 14. The general public will be able to vote for the Sullivan online at usatoday.com. If Hoadley makes the cut, he'll be the first men's golfer with that distinction since Tiger Woods, a finalist from 1995-97.
Hoadley, a sophomore who plans on majoring in marketing in the university's Bryan School of Business and Economics, is a Dean's List and Chancellor's List student who has volunteered with the First Tee program in and around his hometown of Southern Pines, N.C., since he completed the program as a participant in 2004. He admitted he was pleasantly surprised at his selection, which puts him in an elite group of more celebrated athletes.
"I was kind of laughing when I read the list," he said. "You've got an Olympic gold medalist. You've got a Heisman Trophy winner. A national champion. And then there's this all-conference player who has done some stuff but not as much as others. It's a boys-among-men kind of thing."
Hoadley is one of two Sullivan semifinalists with ties to UNCG. Figure skater Evan Lysacek, who won Olympic gold in 2010, is a cousin of Spartan volleyball player Ari Lysacek. Others to make the cut include Heisman winner Cam Newton of Auburn and current Brigham Young basketball player Jimmer Fredette.
Hoadley won the Pinehurst Intercollegiate and tied for ninth at the Fireline Towson Invitational in consecutive events in the spring of 2010. A 15th-place finish in the Southern Conference championship helped secure his selection on the all-conference team.
Academic achievement, another Hoadley priority, is evidenced by his appearance on two UNCG honor rolls. The Dean's List is made up of students with at least a 3.50 grade-point average and no grade lower than a B-minus in a given semester; the Chancellor's List includes those at 3.65 or above with a minimum of 30 credit hours at the university.
"This is great for Robert and well deserved," Spartan coach Terrance Stewart said. "He's the complete student-athlete. It's no surprise to me that he has gotten this acclaim. He does all the right things."
The past few weeks have been eventful for Hoadley, and that trend is continuing. On Jan. 28, he was diagnosed with mononucleosis, from which he has recovered. The following day, he learned that Wendell Welch, a Greensboro resident who runs AAU golf programs nationwide, had nominated him for Sullivan consideration.
"It's funny how things can change in 24 hours," he said.
Hoadley said his First Tee participation is meaningful to him and was probably the determining factor in his selection.
"I went through the program," he said. "At that point (2003-04), I was playing a lot of tournaments around the country. Later, I was starting to get recruited by colleges, and I turned into a mentor. I've worked with kids from the ages of 5 to 12. I think stuff like that – especially in the First Tee, which has such a great influence in its communities – can catch the eye of (selection committee members) looking at resumes."
The 5-foot-8, two-time state junior champion didn't get tipped off on his selection. He learned it when his mother read the USA Today story to him Thursday morning. And then he went off to classes in math and accounting. After practice at Forest Oaks Country Club, he was due in economic statistics from 6-9 p.m.
Hoadley doesn't know yet if he'll be invited to the presentation ceremony. If he gets that chance, his week will be especially hectic. He is set to defend his individual title in Pinehurst from March 11-13. He would fly to New York as soon as possible thereafter.
Bobby Jones won the inaugural Sullivan Award in 1930, but no golfer has claimed the prize since W. Lawson Little Jr., in 1935. Other recent college athletes of note to earn the distinction include Florida football player Tim Tebow in 2007 and Duke basketball player J.J. Redick in 2005. Bill Bradley, then a Princeton basketball player and later a U.S. Senator, was the choice in 1965.
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