Dean Wilson smiled after his ball skipped safely across the water on the 16th hole during yesterday's practice round. CLICK FOR LARGE
Wilson gets help from a friend, who happens to own a Green Jacket
Hawaii's Dean Wilson is skipping along at Augusta
AUGUSTA, Ga. » Mike Weir took Dean Wilson on a personal tour yesterday of the Augusta National Golf Club that can't be measured in dollars and cents.
Playing for only the second time since arriving here on Sunday, Wilson was appreciative his old college roommate found the time to explain as many of the nuances of the famed Masters course as he could during a 5-hour practice round played out in front of thousands of fans milling about yesterday in near-perfect conditions.
The knowledgeable patrons were well aware of Weir, who won this event in 2003, but had to be prodded a bit before recalling that Wilson won the now-defunct International last summer in a playoff over Tom Lehman.
Wilson skipping along at Augusta
AUGUSTA, Ga. » The biggest roar Dean Wilson received from the patrons packed around the famed 16th green during yesterday's Masters practice round came on a trick shot.
After he and Brigham Young University roommate Mike Weir hit several practice approaches into the picturesque 16th green, they received a smattering of applause, accompanied by several people shouting out, "Skip. Skip. Skip."
Wilson wasn't sure what all the hubbub was about, but Weir, who won this event in 2003, certainly did. He and Wilson went to the edge of the huge pond that makes up most of the fairway on the par-3 hole best known for Tiger Woods' birdie chip two years ago that led to his 2005 victory here over Chris DiMarco.
What the fans wanted to see was whether the players could skip their golf ball along the water and have it come to rest on the green. Both players needed a couple of attempts, but Wilson got the best of it with Weir. He hit a low liner just above the water that began to skip along the surface about halfway to the hole.
It skimmed several times like a flat rock over a calm lake before it popped up out of the water and landed about 10 feet below the hole. The roar didn't equal what Woods generated two years ago, but everyone on the course knew one of the players had successfully navigated the pond at the 16th.
Wilson wasn't overly excited about it, saying a simple "thanks" to the fans who shouted out his name as he walked to the 16th green. He was particularly pleased at having Weir with him all day to show him life inside the ropes at The Masters.
Not that Wilson had time to explain who he was to the good folks of Georgia, who remembered him more for playing with Annika Sorenstam at Colonial than anything else. He was trying to soak up as much as he could before teeing it up on Thursday in his first trip to Augusta.
"It's so good having Mike here with me," said Wilson, a Castle alumnus. "He knows so much about the course and was able to tell me so many things that I couldn't have learned on my own. He knows where to go and what to do when you get there.
This was my second round here since I arrived over the weekend.
"We kidded around a lot. It kind of relaxed me. It's unusual to have so many people around during a practice round. Usually, you want to take your time to work on your game and see how your style fits the course. It took some getting used to. But we had a lot of fun and I got some work done."
It took Wilson and Weir a little more than 5 hours to complete their 18 holes. Wilson's ball-striking was solid. He and Weir hit most of their drives within a few yards of each other. They spent time working on approach shots at every hole; not only where the pin was yesterday on these extraordinarily fast greens, but where they will be on the weekend.
Once on the greens, the caddies would take tees and mark them where the pins will be during the 72-hole event. Both players would chip from various spots around the green to see how difficult it would be to get close should they miss with their approaches.
It wasn't all that exciting. Many times they would putt at imaginary holes, trying to find the proper pace on different parts of the greens. But the fans were patient. They seemed to enjoy what the golfers were trying to do and how well they were able to adjust to the different challenges each hole presents.
"You can't take any shots off out here," Wilson said. "You've got to stay focused and realize one small mistake can lead to a big number on your card.
"You've got to know where the pins are and how to position your ball. This is a golf course like no other. What Mike did for me out there today was perfect."
Perfection is a good way to describe this expansive golf course. It took Wilson and Weir about 150 minutes to play the front nine. They then proceeded to the back where the famed Amen Corner awaited the talented twosome. First is the par-4, 505-yard 11th, then comes the 155-yard par-3 12th, followed by the 510-yard par-5 13th.
Amen Corner was named by Herbert Warren Wind in the April 21, 1958, edition of Sports Illustrated. He borrowed the name from a jazz recording of "Shouting at Amen Corner" by a band leader named Milton Mezzrow of Chicago.
No matter how it got its name, Wilson can see why a round can come and go at these three critical holes.
At the par-3 12th, Wilson hit his first shot in the bunker guarding the narrow green located just beyond Rae's Creek. On his second try, Wilson landed the ball about 15 feet below the hole.
"The wind is so tricky there," Wilson said. "It's blowing in one direction on the green at the 11th and just the opposite direction on the 12th green. It's a very intimidating shot. It was awesome."
Wilson will play another 27 practice holes before teeing it up for real on Thursday. The course isn't exactly suited for his style of play, but he's not going to worry about any of that. He wants to enjoy the experience and see where it takes him.
"Yeah, I'm nervous, but I'm also excited I've got this opportunity," Wilson said. "My mom and dad arrived (yesterday). I've gotten a lot of calls from people back in Hawaii wishing me luck. There's not a lot I can say about that. I just have to go out there and do the best I can. I'm going to enjoy the experience. It's all I can do."