Wilson starting from scratch at age 40


POSTED: Friday, January 15, 2010

What if you got a little bit better at your job two years in a row, but your compensation decreased each time?

And you earned $442,600 in 2009, where pay is directly related to performance ... but it's not good enough for you to get steady work now?

You'd be in the Dean Wilson Twilight Zone.

That's not a comment on him turning 40 last month—remember, this is golf, where there is no career twilight. Forty is the 30 of other sports; you can still enjoy plenty of success before assignment to the rocking chair (Exhibit A: Vijay Singh).

Then, when you hit your mid-40s, you start gearing up for a new beginning at 50. The rest of us get AARP cards; elite golfers get Champions Tour cards.

But that's still a decade away for Wilson, who was disappointed with his 1-over-par 71 in the first round of the Sony Open yesterday. He made some nice par saves, but missed a short birdie putt on his last hole.

At least in theory, the Castle High grad has at least a few more years of high-caliber PGA Touring left in him.

He's still got the game. His average strokes per round improved, for the second year in a row, to 70.69 (which is even a skosh better than the 70.71 of 2006, when he won his only Tour event and made a career-high $2,509,857.

But Wilson's earnings fell nearly a million dollars last year from 2008, causing a plummet of 106 spots on the money list to 145th. And that is what puts him in a strange position, one he'd rather not occupy at this point in his golf life.

He's back where he was a few years ago, having to scrap his way into tournaments anyway he can. Wilson has extensive experience at this, since he was pretty much a fringe player until winning at The International four years ago.

“;I guess it helps, but golf is always a battle,”; Wilson said. “;You've got to work for every shot. You have to grind it out.”;

Wilson said he will probably get to play in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

“;But nothing's for sure; it depends on others.”;

It's back to the schedule choosing him rather than the other way around.

Climbing out of the middle of the pack today and positioning himself for a strong finish here would help his cause. Wilson didn't have a top-10 finish in any of his 29 events last year—despite the aforementioned best average score per round. That's a head scratcher.

So it's back to the hard way (Monday qualifiers) and what some think is the easy way (sponsor exemptions, like the one he got for this week).

Wilson doesn't get the annual exemption for his lone Tour victory; he didn't even get a chance to defend his title at The International, since the event shut down a couple of months after his win. Well, at least he will always be its reigning champion.

Former Star-Bulletin sports editor and longtime golf writer Bill Kwon has a good idea. He said The Colonial should give Wilson an exemption, since that's where he gained his most national notoriety. Wilson was in the playing group with Annika Sorenstam when she made her PGA Tour debut, and he was widely lauded for the way he handled the unique situation.

Since then, Hawaii's biggest golf money winner has also been overshadowed at various times by Michelle Wie, Kimberly Kim, Parker McLachlin, Tadd Fujikawa, and now, after his 69 yesterday, TJ Kua.

At 40, it's back to the grind for Dean Wilson. Does it feel any different?

“;Nah, the course is still kicking my butt, like when I was 30,”; he said.

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