Inspirational Mother Sees Sons Dream Come True

By Associated PressApril 3, 2007, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- She has spent a lifetime on the windward side of Oahu, paradise in the eyes of many.
Grace Wilson found her own slice of heaven Tuesday morning amid the brilliance of spring at Augusta National. Walking down a hill toward the sixth green, she stopped for a picture in front of pink and red azaleas, keeping her eyes fixed on the most beautiful sight of all.
There was her son, Dean Wilson, getting ready for his first Masters.
This was the same child she drove to Pali Golf Course with the only set of golf clubs in their house. She would use the even-numbered Spalding Elite irons, he would use the odd-numbered ones. She couldn't afford to splurge on his own clubs until he showed he was serious.
'I always dreamed that someday Dean would get here,' she said. 'But you shouldn't set your expectations so high. Well, I didn't. But I always felt like Dean did.'
Wilson, 37, earned his way with a victory last summer at the International that enabled him to finish No. 22 on the PGA TOUR money list.
He is not the first player from Hawaii to compete in the Masters. He isn't even the only one this year; he played a practice round Tuesday with Casey Watabu, the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.
But few have come so far, notwithstanding that big water hazard separating Hawaii from the mainland.
Wilson isn't even sure how he got hooked on the game. His mother taught physical education at Castle High School in Kaneohe and played golf enough to shoot the occasional round in the high 70s.
'He got started late,' Mrs. Wilson said. 'He was 12 or 13, and golf wasn't the most popular sport in Hawaii for kids. But one day, out of the clear blue sky, he said to me, 'Mom, would you take me to the golf course?''
So began an amazing journey -- hired hand in a golf repair shop, the best junior in Hawaii, a walk-on at BYU, three years on the Japanese tour and fame for the longest time on the PGA TOUR as the guy who played with Annika Sorenstam.
Turns out Wilson was the perfect guy for that historic occasion at Colonial.
'He worked so hard on his game,' Mrs. Wilson said. 'He didn't really start to play a lot until right before high school, but he made the high school team. There were only five players on the team, and three of them were girls.'
He was determined, sure, and that was fueled by the clubs in his bag.
As a teenager, Wilson took a job at A-1 Golfworx, a repair shop at Bay View Driving Range. He had learned to shaft and grip clubs, and found enough clubs in the lost-and-found bin to finally have his own set.
'The shafts cost $4 and the grips were 69 cents,' Wilson said. 'I made a full set, but every single head was different -- Spalding, Wilson, Top-Flite, all different lofts. But that taught me how equipment worked. And it had a big impact on my mental development. Guys I would play against would look at my clubs and laugh. That made me feel like, 'I'm going to kick your butt with these clubs.''
And he did.
But it wasn't enough to get noticed, not on an island in the middle of the Pacific. The best juniors go to Torrey Pines in San Diego for the Junior World Championship, but Wilson went only one year because his family couldn't afford such a big trip.
'I was so ignorant about tournament golf,' Mrs. Wilson said. 'I just turned him loose in the junior golf programs. I took him to the golf course, but that was it. I didn't know anything about national tournaments. And financially, we couldn't afford it.'
The one year he went to Torrey Pines, the junior golf program paid for it.
Wilson was the best junior in Hawaii, but the only scholarship offer came from BYU-Hawaii. The golf program ended after his first year.
He went to the main BYU campus in Utah as a walk-on, where he was roommates with a Canadian kid named Mike Weir. They remain best friends, and played a practice round Tuesday with Watabu in tow.
'He was a hard worker,' Weir said. 'When I was in college, I didn't really work on my golf swing. He was really the first guy on our team working on his swing.'
Wilson didn't always make the traveling squad because priority was given to the scholarship players. There were times when he complained, and he got the same answer from coach Karl Tucker. It's a line they still laugh about to this day.
'He told me, 'For all I care, you can paddle your canoe back to wherever you came from,'' Wilson said.
He paddled all over the world, from the mini-tours in his 20s, to Japan for three years where he was rookie of the year in 2000, and a three-time winner the following season. He finally made it to the PGA TOUR in 2003, and rookie status is what put him in the same group with Sorenstam at the Colonial.
It has been a grind to keep his card at times, but his playoff victory over Tom Lehman at the International earned him a two-year exemption, and ultimately a trip to the Masters.
Mrs. Wilson tries to go to three tournaments a year, but she never expected a trip the first full week of April, to a major that her son used to tape on television and watch over and over.
'One year that (Nick) Faldo won, Dean took his picture from a magazine, cut off his head and put his picture on there,' she said. 'I wish I still had that picture.'
This was better. This was real.
And as she walked up fairways she never realized were so steep, she remembered where it began.
'Mom, would you take me to the golf course?'
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    Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

    Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

    Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

    In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

    Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

    “I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

    Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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    Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

    In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

    Made Cut

    Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

    Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

    “If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

    McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

    “The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    September can’t get here quick enough.

    Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

    There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

    In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

    Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

    On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

    “I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

    The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

    Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

    Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

    The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

    The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

    “My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

    Missed Cut

    Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

    After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

    It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

    Tweet of the week:

    It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

    The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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    Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

    Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

    While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

    “I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

    Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    “Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”