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January 10, 2007

Dean Wilson


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Dean Wilson to the 2007 Sony Open in Hawaii. A little different this year coming back home as a winner. I know your schedule has been a little busier. Talk about how things changed with your win.
DEAN WILSON: Just trying to do everything I can with the Hawaii Visitors Bureau and the tournaments here. It's just been busy. I've never been so busy in my life. Never really had a schedule, so got to get used to it.
TODD BUDNICK: You started last week at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, 29th, two bad rounds to start, but you bounced back with two good rounds. Assess your opening week.
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, I'm happy I had a couple of good rounds on the weekend. Those first two were tough on me. I didn't judge the wind very well, and to top it off, I putted really poorly the first couple of rounds. I think everybody struggled with that but it's something I really struggled with.
Feels good to get some rounds under my belt coming into this tournament rather than coming in fresh like I have the last few years, so excited for that.

Q. I was just thinking about this, as a Pali Public kid growing up playing golf, what is the first quote, unquote big time golf course that you played to put you in a sense of awe?
DEAN WILSON: This one. I remember one time we had a U.S. Am qualifying here and I entered it and at that time I think it was 50 bucks to play 36 holes. I think I actually played pretty well, and knowing that if I did qualify, I couldn't afford to go but. I wanted to play here and get that experience.

Q. So basically you're playing 50 bucks, a greens fee to play Waialae.
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, it was well worth it. My first nice course was here.

Q. How old were you and how did you do?
DEAN WILSON: I must have been about 15 or 16. I think I shot somewhere around 1- or 2-over par, and I'm sure just under par made it or something.

Q. Was it U.S. Am qualifier?
DEAN WILSON: I think so.

Q. Second question, what's the most you've ever paid to play a round of golf? Just be sure not to ask us that question.
DEAN WILSON: I don't even know. A hundred bucks maybe or something.

Q. Here?
DEAN WILSON: I can't even -- I don't even think I have because I just played junior golf here and we wouldn't go around and play those expensive courses. When you're in college, the school picked it up and then turning pro, I don't know. I have no idea.
Yeah, I don't remember a time where a pro didn't extend a professional courtesy.

Q. Well, you're a member at all the TPCs.
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes you go to courses and, oh, we'll comp the green fee but we'll charge you a $30 cart rental. I'm thinking, I can rent for less than an easy-go golf cart for the day.

Q. Can you talk about what Andy and Mike have brought to your game what they have helped with you?
DEAN WILSON: Oh, they have brought everything with, their knowledge of the golf swing and the research that they have done and the studying that they have done over their careers over the last 10, 12 years, it's phenomenal. There's no way I would be sitting here as a tournament winner without those guys. They work really hard. They are out here every week with us, with me and the other guys on the program so to say.
Andy walked with me all 18 holes today and watched every shot and he's always going home, drawing pictures or printing out the pictures, showing us what we need to work on. I can't emphasize them enough. It's phenomenal what they have done and the knowledge they have.

Q. Have you talked them up to some of the other guys? Have some other guys gone to them because of you?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, definitely. Mike Weir, college roommate of mine. We've always gone back and forth with the swing, and you know, Mike and I used to work with the same teacher, Mike Wilson. I didn't get any better.
I kind of started going backwards and struggling with the things that he wanted me to do with the swing, and got to the point where I couldn't hit the golf ball in the middle of 2004. I was terrible. At best I was like two or three handicap. I was just getting everything done with my short game.
In the middle of the year, I stopped working with him and fortunately, I was good friends with Grant Waite and always liked his golf swing and admired the way he swung the club. So I started talking to him and he introduced me to Mike and Andy, and from there, I think everything has just gotten better.
So far on the whole in 2004, I didn't make enough, finished 133th. I had made about 150,000 up to the middle of the year and after working with Mike and Andy, first tournament back, I had the best tournament I ever had and made about another 400,000, 500,000 with them, but it wasn't enough to keep my card.
Went back to Q-School, breezed through that. 2005 had my best year on Tour up to that point, and then last year was even better. So the more I work with them, the more I own the swing and my geometry starts getting better.

Q. Have you talked to Mike about how he feels going with them now?
DEAN WILSON: Oh, so, yeah -- sorry, I lost track there. Talked to him back and forth and he started working with them at end of this year. He took one lesson with them Monday of The TOUR Championship. He was there filming a commercial and really liked what they had to say.
So this off-season, he's worked hard with them and he's getting some of the changes in there, bad habits that he need to get out of, and I look forward to him having a very good year.

Q. What part of your long game has improved the most, driving?
DEAN WILSON: Just the swing in whole. My tendency is that if the club gets longer, it's tougher for me. My stats have gotten better but they don't -- they are not phenomenal. I'm not very long so I just need to hit more fairways.
Overall, the stats are a little better. They don't look like they are a big improvement, but when it does feel good and things are good, then I'll have a good week. I'll have more Top-10s. I was in contention more. I was better able to control what was going on, and I think that hopefully that was it; when I was able to win coming down the line, I still kind of got a little tipsy with my nerves. In the playoff, I went to the range, hit a few shots and hit four good shots and was able to make a putt. So I can't emphasize those two guys enough.

Q. What did you learn from INTERNATIONAL last year in terms of that feeling of getting there at the end and then eventually winning? In other words was there anything as you looked back, any indication Thursday, Friday, that this was going to be your week?
DEAN WILSON: Nothing Friday. I think it was a slow build up of getting myself in contention earlier in the year and not having things work out but getting that feel.

Q. Like a Nissan-type thing?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah. For me I've always noticed, I need to get comfortable. And putting myself in the hunt more often really helped when I had that chance to win and knowing that feeling. Like I tell everyone, it doesn't matter if it's a high school tournament, a college tournament, a state open or a PGA TOUR event, that feeling you have trying to win a tournament is exactly the same.
And so I was able to win in Japan, I was able to win some State Opens to kind of keep my career going. And when I got into contention on the Tour, at first it's a little uncomfortable because it's such a bigger thing. But when I did that a little more often, I was more used to it and it didn't bother me going into the final round being in the second-to-last group, third-to-last group or whatever else. I got a little more used to it.
So hopefully it will carry onto this year; if I get into contention, I can be more comfortable with it.

Q. What was your closest call before, Texas?
DEAN WILSON: A couple of times in Texas. But the past 2006 had to be the Nissan, I was leading after a couple of rounds and was up there for Saturday a little bit. I made a couple of mistakes.
Bay Hill, I was up there for a while, too. So yeah, it gets not easier but you're just used to it, because that first time, it's a bit of a -- you don't know what to expect.

Q. Did you ever work at this tournament as a junior volunteer?
DEAN WILSON: No, but I was out all the time. I would come out all the time and watch everybody.

Q. Were you here when David Ishii won?
DEAN WILSON: No, I was in college and I remember watching it from my dorm room and watching him win.
Before that, I was in school from '84 to '90, or '89 I was always watching. That was the first year I was away watching it on television, watching it in the snow from Utah watching him win.

Q. What was going through your mind watching someone from Hawaii win?
DEAN WILSON: I was really excited. I was pulling for him. Like I said earlier, for me, I always want -- I need examples. I need to see people that I'm in touch with or it makes it more of a reality.
So when David won, I thought, well, there, that proves that some guy from Hawaii can win. And if David can win, maybe some day I can win. And Weirsy had all of his success, it's like, he's doing great. I used to eat lunch with this guy in college every day. If he can win, I can do it, too.
So it helps to to have that rather than just sitting back and watching a Jack Nicklaus or a Davis Love or whoever win, because maybe those guys are not as real to me as a David or a Mike Weir.

Q. Do you think other kids in Hawaii see you that way?
DEAN WILSON: I would hope so. I always think, I want to play golf with these guys. I want them to come out and talk to me and realise that I'm just a normal guy, just a guy from Pali Golf Course, and if some kid from Pali Golf Course can make it on TOUR, then anybody can make it. You don't have to be from a country club. You don't have to have all of the extra privileges. Not that my life was hard, but just a basic junior golfer that wanted to play on Tour and worked towards it and got there.
So hopefully that's what those guys, when they look at me, they see and realize nothing is that extraordinary about my game, they can do what I can do.

Q. What is your favourite story of your old college roommate? What story do you love to tell on him?
DEAN WILSON: I don't know if there's any story. But people would always ask me, what's the difference; why all of a sudden is Mike winning compared to -- he was a lot like me in college where he was not a stand-out. I think one year he might have been second team All-American but other than that just a pretty good college player.
Mike always had , I always tell him, he always had the fight. He always had the desire, wanted to win, thought he could. Had the short game, whatever he would shoot, that was the best he could do that day, and he would scrap it out, chipping and putting and getting it around. Then he learned how to hit the golf ball.
Now you throw that combination where he starts hitting the ball well and he gets everything up-and-down and he believes in himself and he's not afraid to step up against Tiger and those guys and take them on. That's the combination right there for a champion and that's what he's proven to be.

Q. No big fights he got in in a bar or anything like that?
DEAN WILSON: No. (Laughter) He was pretty passive. He didn't bring that hockey mentality.

Q. Have you played much golf with Tad?
DEAN WILSON: With played 18 holes at the U.S. Open. That was the first time I met him. Other than that, I have not, no.

Q. What did you think of his game?
DEAN WILSON: Fantastic. The Junior golf program in Hawaii has really taken off. We had the best year that Hawaii has ever had, and geez, for any state it would be good. You had Kimberly Kim winning the U.S. Am; Casey Watabu winning; what Tad (Fukijawa) accomplished, youngest player to play in the U.S. Open and he just keeps on winning. Stephanie Kono is another player that keeps winning nationally. It doesn't stop. And then I threw in a win there on TOUR. So it's pretty exciting. And from the smallest state in the nation, we've got some good stuff going on.

Q. His story got kind of under played last year with all that was accomplished here?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, I think it's fantastic that the junior golf program is taking off here.

Q. I couldn't believe on that advertisement list that the volleyball team was ranked second. Have you ever been to a volleyball match here?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah, it's crazy. It's huge. The new age program, the men's and women's is really big. They are always up nationally, ranked. It's really exciting stuff.

Q. Back to what Jeff was saying on the success, based on that and the strength of the Junior program, do you think the USGA will ever reconsider on the U.S. Open qualifier being taken away?
DEAN WILSON: I would hope so. Just from the point of view that it's tough growing up here. If I ever wanted to do anything nationally for me just to fly all the way to the main land maybe just to try to qualify, it's really tough. Maybe they can do something where they didn't give as many spots, but they should. It's the U.S. Open. This is a part of the United States and U.S. Amateur and they should have a qualifier, whether they maybe lower the spots or something.
It all of the guys are complaining that it's so easy in Hawaii, they should fly over to Hawaii, because our whole life, we had to fly there. I know the toughness of that, we didn't have money; I played one Junior World and that really inhibits us to get looked at for college scholar ships for anything. I had zero offers coming out of high school, and I was one of the best players here.
So I had to figure out a way how to get to BYU. Finally an offer came in from the BYU Hawaii campus for a partial scholarship, went there one year, and red-shirted one year and that was in hopes of getting into a Division I school and that was the only reason that I wept there. When they showed me they had Johnny Miller, Mike Reid, Keith Clearwater, I said I have to go there. That was my only chance to get into a Division I school. So I went there and then transferred up and walked on and played there.

Q. You walked on the BYU team once you got there?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah. After the first year, the BYU Hawaii team had the best season they ever had.

Q. That was after you left?
DEAN WILSON: No, that was the year I was there and we finished like eighth nationally. But then they had to drop the program because of Title IX. So they had to bring in a women's program and drop a program so they choose to drop golf. And I heard they are restarting the program or it has been going on for a year or two.

Q. What year was that that you played?
DEAN WILSON: I played '87, '88.

Q. Seems like you keep pretty good tabs on the Hawaiian junior golfers. I guess there are a lot of guys out here from Florida or California who cannot name the best junior golfers from their state. Do you feel like you're part of the fraternity and have to keep track of them a little bit?
DEAN WILSON: I hope so. We have a good would be site called 808golf.com that keeps me up-to-date and I like to keep in touch just because I know -- I know the trials that you have to go through living so far away from the Mainland. So I keep an eye on them and watch them. They are playing great, so it's exciting.

Q. What was the year you played the Junior World and where did you find the money to go do it?
DEAN WILSON: I probably went in '86. I think my parents funded everything.

Q. Just saved up, but wasn't something you could do every year?
DEAN WILSON: No. Unfortunately I got sick and played terrible.

Q. That week?
DEAN WILSON: Yeah. But it was -- that's a big, expensive trip. I know that the junior golf program is getting bigger and better and they are trying to do something, and I'm looking into starting a foundation for Hawaii that will just help the Junior golfers travel and get over there and compete and play because that's really big.
It's so easy if you grow up in Texas or California or Florida; all of the tournaments are there. You guys know, just coming over here for one week, it takes a bit of energy. And these kids when you go up there, it's tough on them. It's such a bigger arena and I remember it was very intimidating for me.

Q. Did you ever get to a point where you thought it was too much of an uphill climb to try and make it in golf from here?
DEAN WILSON: No. I made a decision when I went away to BYU that I wanted to be a golfer. I didn't want to do anything else.
So I was going to stay there, but the one thing I did do was I didn't come home for three or four years. First time I came home was a tournament my senior year, we played in Hawaii and I just wanted to stay away. I wanted to just figure out what I needed to do to survive on my own rather than running back home to my parents and having them take care of me.
So I would just stay up there all summer. I went to summer school every year, the coach paid for my scholarship and I would work and just try to figure it out and try to become a better golfer while I was there.

Q. Do you still work in the pro shop when you go backup there?
DEAN WILSON: A little bit. I hang out in the pro shop now.

Q. Where is this?

Q. To clarify you left here at what age and didn't come back for three years?
DEAN WILSON: I left at age 18 and probably didn't come back until I was 21.

Q. Did your parents come and see you at all?
DEAN WILSON: They came up once to the national at Poppy Hills.

Q. Did your mom stop by Reno on the way home?
DEAN WILSON: Probably. (Laughing) That was just a decision I made and, well, when I'm going to go, I'm going to figure out how to do it. I would watch all of the other guys from Hawaii, either they were playing football or other sports and they couldn't wait to go home. They would go home Thanksgiving and Christmas and summers and things, and I just thought that I knew that I would need to figure out how to live on my own and make myself survive, so I just kind of stuck up there and tried to figure it out.

Q. What's it going to be like for you when you walk through the gates tomorrow?
DEAN WILSON: I don't know, I've been doing it now for three or four years. It seems like the reaction is a little different being a PGA TOUR winner and more people know my name and more people are following me. So that's exciting. It will be the same. Won't be anything new.
TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Dean.

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