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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 21, 2003

His 15 minutes of fame was 11 years in the making

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

How many times, while holding down a part-time job cleaning out golf carts at midnight, do you think Dean Wilson longed for a PGA Tour card and all that comes with it?

How often, as people went about doing their laundry and daily ablution in the ponds of the Asian Tour courses he slogged across from India to Indonesia, do you think Wilson imagined appearing in front of an overflow, attentive gallery?

How many times during those humbling 20-hour drives from Winnipeg to Ontario on the Canadian Tour must he have pictured himself in the glare of the worldwide golf spotlight?

So, when it was announced that the 33-year-old Wilson will be one of two PGA Tour rookies playing with Annika Sorenstam when the Colonial opens tomorrow, you heard not a word of protest from the Castle High graduate. There would be no I'm-gonna-take-my-clubs-and-go-home ultimatums about being paired with a woman or humph about who really belongs on the course this week.

Cheers and high-fivin' exuberance, perhaps, but definitely none of the Vijay Singh grousing we were subjected to last week.

"I'm looking forward to (the experience of playing with (Sorenstam), actually," Wilson said of the attention that is sure to surround the first PGA appearance by a woman in 58 years. "She has every right to be in this tournament, and I'm all for her playing well."

"It is exciting; it's history," Wilson added. "And it's a privilege to be part of it."

So inspired was Wilson that he even plopped down $3 for a "Go Annika" button he wore to yesterday's press conference.

Indeed, when had Wilson ever faced such a battery of microphones and notepads before, much less been invited to a place on the dais of a pre-tournament press conference?

Next to the bank that is sponsoring the event and the officials who faced the prospect of a Tiger-less tournament, Wilson and Aaron Barber, the Tour rookies who round out the opening-day threesome, are probably the happiest people in Fort Worth, Texas, to see her.

Nor is it hard to understand why. After 11 years spent paying his dues with interest on the Asian, Australian, Buy.com, Canadian and Japanese tours, Wilson knows a 24-karat opportunity when he sees one. After seven unsuccessful tries at earning a place on the PGA Tour through qualifying school, the glare, however reflected, has to be much welcomed.

For all the success he has experienced — a 2003 start built around two top-10 finishes that has him 65th on the Tour money list at $441,400 — Wilson remains largely an unknown commodity outside of Hawai'i and Utah, the states where he grew up, went to school and has resided. And, until a break-out performance on the PGA circuit, it probably would have stayed that way.

Now, in irony doubtlessly not wasted on Wilson, the luck of the automated draw has given him 36 holes with Sorenstam and the potential to do more for his visibility than a decade of toiling the four corners of the globe ever did.