Originally created 08/07/02

Wilson paving a foreign path to PGA Tour



Dean Wilson was among those given a special exemption to the PGA Championship, and he doesn't take those lightly. It was only his second exemption into any tournament, amazing considering he is ranked 60th in the world.

Then again, Wilson is an American who plays exclusively on the Japan Golf Tour.

"You would think my world ranking is high enough to get some starts, but it doesn't evolve around that," said Wilson, a Hawaiian who recently moved to Las Vegas. "Being an American, the world ranking doesn't mean anything."

The ranking didn't come by accident.

The 31-year-old Wilson won three times on the Japan Golf Tour last year and finished third on the money list, and he already has won twice this year.

Still, he didn't play in a PGA Tour event until qualifying for the U.S. Open last year at Southern Hills (he tied for 30th). Wilson couldn't even get an exemption into the Sony Open in Honolulu, making the field only through Monday qualifying.

His only other exemption? The Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

Wilson will try to make the most out of playing in the PGA Championship. Along with a big purse (at least $5.2 million), a strong showing could move him into the top 50 in the world and get him into the World Golf Championship at Sahalee ($5 million purse).

The money could go a long way toward helping him follow in the steps of fellow American Brian Watts, who also played in Japan until he earned a ticket to the PGA Tour through his runner-up finish in the 1998 British Open.

"I took careful note of that," Wilson said.

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SURVEY SAYS: Golf Magazine has conducted a survey of more than 2,000 avid golfers, asking them 135 questions about golfing habits and desires.

It's all part of "The Report on the American Golfer," a comprehensive study. The first snapshot is published in its September issue, and offers some interesting views:

- David Duval received the most votes (42 percent) when asked whom they would prefer for a male playing partner. He was followed by President Bush (25 percent), comedian Billy Murray (23 percent) and Michael Jordan (10 percent).

- Those surveyed said it would take temperatures over 107 degrees and under 41 degrees to keep them from playing.

- For female playing partners, the first choice was Nancy Lopez (52 percent), followed by Karrie Webb (25 percent), Cindy Crawford (18 percent) and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (5 percent).

- If they had only one round left to play, 70 percent said it would be at Augusta National or Pebble Beach (35 percent each), with 15 percent going to St. Andrews, and 2 percent playing Pine Valley. The other 1 percent would play their home course.

- Only 37 percent said they would trade places with Tiger Woods, while 45 percent said they would trade places with the player ranked 200th on the PGA Tour money list.

- If they could ban one thing from the golf course, 37 percent said it would be slow players. Cell phones came in at 34 percent, followed by foul language (13 percent).

- Arnold Palmer showed why he's the King. Out of 12 choices, 29 percent picked him as their primary golf idol. Jack Nicklaus received 18 percent of the vote, while Woods was tied with "None of the above" at 13 percent.

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TIGER FOR SALE: Bob Ritonya, a postal clerk in Omaha, Neb., thought he hit paydirt when a pack of Upper Deck trading cards he recently bought included a ticket to play golf with Tiger Woods.

Ritonya figured he could sell the round on eBay and get anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 to pay for his children's college education.

There were no takers.

He told the Omaha World-Herald that a Las Vegas man bid $100,100. When Ritonya contacted him, the winning bidder said he was just joking.

Ritonya said he is deciding whether to put the card up for bid at a number of auction houses. He might try eBay again. And if all else fails, Ritonya and his 13-year-old son can always play a round of golf with Woods this fall.

"I don't think the problem is going to be selling it," Ritonya said. "The problem is: How do you get the word out to the people who can afford it?"

In April, an unidentified person bid $450,000 on eBay to play golf with Woods at Isleworth Country Club. A year ago, a financier paid $2.1 million at an Irish auction for the same privilege.

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AUGUSTA ON HIS MIND: Jack Nicklaus was asked before the made-for-TV "Battle at Bighorn" what he thought about non-conforming clubs.

"I think each club has a right to make its own rules," he said. "One of the first things I did at Muirfield Village, which was my own club, was to have every nationality, every religion, men and woman, and that was in the early '70s. That was what I believe in. What somebody else does and how they make their rules, it's not my position to criticize."

When Nicklaus finally stopped talking, the reporter clarified his question. He wanted to know about golf clubs, as in thin-faced drivers; not private clubs, as in Augusta National.

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DIVOTS: The Salesmanship Club of Dallas raised $5.77 million for charity through the Byron Nelson Classic, ending two consecutive years of going over the $6 million mark. Still, its net proceeds for charity top $69 million since 1973, the most of all PGA Tour events. ... The official Web site of the 2002 British Open attracted 1.8 million visitors, a 200 percent increase from last year, and generated more than 229 million page views, twice as many as the previous year. ... Joanne Carner has been named Ambassador of Golf by the International Federation of PGA Tours, an award given annually to a person who has enriched golf around the world.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Chip Beck earned $34,000 for his third-place finish in the Buy.com Omaha Classic last week. It was his largest paycheck from a tournament since he won $40,000 after tying for 15th in the 1999 Canadian Open.

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FINAL WORD: "When they can play three holes without chasing a frog." - Jack Nicklaus on when kids are ready to play golf on a regulation course.



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