Steve Wilsons unlikely road to Augusta National

By Associated PressMarch 28, 2009, 4:00 pm
JACKSON, Miss. ' Back when Steve Wilson was halfheartedly trying to make the PGA Tour, he often wondered what it would be like to play at the Masters even though he had no real expectation of ever making it.
Hes finally going to get the chance to find out after earning a trip to golfs most prestigious tournament in a way he didnt envision in even his wildest fantasies.
Plans dont always work out the way you expect them to, Wilson said.
Four years after notifying the USGA he was giving up his pro status, the 39-year-old gas station owner from Ocean Springs, Miss., will be teeing off on April 9 with Tiger, Phil and the gang among the azaleas at Augusta National.
Call it the cart path less traveled.
Wilson earned the trip by winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Milwaukee Country Club in a rout last September. He never trailed in his final three matches, took a four-hole lead to start the championship match and one-putted 14 times over 32 holes.
For winning, he gets automatic entry into the Masters, exemptions for several amateur tournaments and will skip a round of U.S. Open qualifying.
His goals at Augusta are simple: First make the cut, then aim for the top 16. That would get him another year in the tournament. He also intends later this year to make a run at the U.S. Open and likely will play in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and the Mid-Am, a tournament for amateurs over 25 to which he now has a 10-year exemption.
He tried off and on for 10 years to make a pro career work. He played a few Nike Tour events, but never went to qualifying school and just sort of gave up when life got in the way. There was a son, Gavan, to raise and a business to run.
I own a gas station down here and I had to work quite a bit, Wilson said. I was a professional but I tell my wife I was never a wholehearted professional.
In a way, his former career probably went the way it should have. Truth is, he says, he wasnt much of a golfer as a young adult. He played at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, then transferred to Southern Miss where he was a contemporary of occasional playing partner Brett Favre.
Slow learner, dumb, late bloomer, Wilson said when asked why his game took so long to develop.
But the older he got, the better he played. He won the Mississippi state amateur title in 2007 and has won seven pro-ams and three amateur championships on the Gulf Coast. His buddies have been amazed by his transformation from a guy with a jittery putter to one now considering taking another crack at playing professionally.
He is definitely the best player to come from down here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the last 50 years, said Tommy Snell, the golf coach at Gulf Coast CC who has known Wilson since he was a junior player.
Snell accompanied Wilson to Augusta National on Sunday for a practice round ' another great perk for winning the Mid-Am ' and was tickled by the progress his friend has made.
Hes a very, very accomplished golfer, just not nationally known, Snell said. So this is bizarre for everybody. When I went up there on Sunday and walked around the course with him, I was thinking, This is a guy we play with for 5 or 10 bucks a stroke.
Heath Slocum, a PGA Tour player and former Mississippian who got his start on the mini-tours, remembers Wilson from his days chasing a spot on the Tour.
I played quite a bit of golf with him, said Slocum, who finished 33rd at Augusta last year in his first appearance. I was really happy to see what he did last year. Hes a good golfer, obviously. You have to be to get to Augusta. Its going to be exciting. Hes going to have a great time. Obviously, its a pretty demanding golf course.
Wilson has learned that firsthand. He has taken advantage of the chance to practice at Augusta, playing 15 rounds in six visits since December. Hes been awed by the kindness of the clubs staff, and taken the chance to load up on shirts, windbreakers and visors with its logo.
His worst round on the par-72 course was an 81 and his best was a 73 he shot last weekend. He figures if he can repeat a similar score on the first two days of competition hell make the cut at the usually stingy Augusta National.
The trips have brought back memories from his youth when hed tape the tournament and watch it repeatedly.
Its incredible, Wilson said. Its one of the few things thats as good as you build it up in your mind. The tradition and everywhere you go out there you can remember a shot that somebodys hit.
I would like to be there everyday for the rest of my life if I could.
He says that even though the course is so difficult it has entered his dreams.
Theyre all the same, Wilson said. The hole is a real tall glass tube and Im on the ground. And I say, How can I possibly make that.
The trips have helped reinvigorate his wish to become a professional, though he wont put much more thought into it until he sees how he does this spring and summer. On their 450-mile drive north last weekend, Wilson and Snell listened to the audiobook version of John Feinsteins Tales from Q-School.
Its all very tempting, and hed hate to think 20 years down the road that he might have missed an opportunity.
After what my golf career has produced, yeah, Wilson said. Theres so much money in golf now, if youve got any kind of a crack to get through, youve got to take it.
Getting there is expensive, though. Wilson figures it will cost him more than $15,000 by the time hes done. Friends held a fundraiser to help defray the cost of his trip, but he ended up donating the nearly $3,000 raised to a junior golfing program after some wags started to make fun of him.
I was going to Disney World a few weeks ago and all my friends said, Oh, God, when are you going to hold a fundraiser for that, Wilson said with a laugh.
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    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

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    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

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    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

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    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

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    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

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    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

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