J.D. Hoft: Golf gives talented athlete a second chance

jdhoftJ.D. Hoft has always been a talented athlete, but with golf, this two-time Hilton Head Amateur champion got a second chance.

Growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, in the shadow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, J.D. Hoft was every bit the natural athlete. Even in his junior year of high school, this talented soccer and baseball standout was already on the radar for several prominent college recruiters.

His fast track to athletic stardom was all but assured, until the day he blew his knee out.

“At the time, all I thought was, ‘I can’t play soccer; what the hell am I going to do?’,” Hoft said.

With both his ACL and MCL shredded, Hoft made the difficult decision to rewire his ACL using his patella tendon. Although the decision immediately severed any hope of playing soccer at a college level, Hoft knew that the operation gave him a much better chance at a longer life with full use of his knee.

“At 17, you have a lot ahead of you,” he said. “It turned out it was a blessing in disguise.”

The blessing came in the form of his introduction to golf, a sport both of his parents had long pursued but which had never called to him. That is, until Hoft realized his injury was no longer insurmountable. He latched onto the sport quickly, taking an almost Zen approach to the game.

“Once you think you have golf figured out, it humbles you,” he said. “And once you think all hope is lost you have the round of your life.”

He pursued golf as he began at Campbell University in North Carolina, walking onto the team and making a name for himself.

“My junior year in college, I got really serious about it,” he said, adding with a chuckle, “I really enjoyed practicing, although I’d still rather jam a sharp stick in my eye than play by myself.”

The pro at university-owned Keith Hills soon took Hoft under his wing, and Hoft ultimately set his sights on a position as a club pro after graduation.

“Come to find out, those jobs are few and far between,” Hoft said.

An internship on Daufuskie Island served as Hoft’s introduction to the Lowcountry, and he sealed the deal with a move to the area in 2004. Landing a job at Indigo Run, Hoft soon made himself known to many of the local pros, playing on the island and in tournaments in Florida. It was during one of those tournaments that Hoft discovered the Hilton Head Island Amateur Golf Association.

His first amateur association championship win came in 2007 at Oldfield, a win he says was “kind of like home field for me,” owing to the hours he’s spent mastering that course’s narrow fairways and signature Greg Norman bunkers.

It was his first win, but it wouldn’t be his last. Hoft is currently association’s reigning champ, having won back-to-back wins in 2013 and 2014.

And to think, it all goes back to one lucky break. Or lucky tear, as the case may be.