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Wilson earns name and victory of his own

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Tom Lehman, left, congratulates first-time PGA Tour winner Dean Wilson.

Tom Lehman, left, congratulates first-time PGA Tour winner Dean Wilson.

Ed Andrieski, Associated Press

Just a week earlier, Dean Wilson was in Provo helping with the annual Men's Invitational at Riverside Country Club.

Sunday afternoon, Wilson was in Colorado winning the biggest tournament of his life, capturing a sudden-death playoff over former British Open champion Tom Lehman at the International.

Until Sunday, the 36-year-old Wilson was known mainly as (1) a teammate of Mike Weir's at BYU; and (2) the guy who was so nice to Annika Sorenstam when he was paired with her at the Colonial Invitational three years ago.

Now, Wilson will forever be known as a winner on the PGA Tour. With Sunday's victory, Wilson earned $990,000, surpassing this year's earnings of $910,601.

"He's a great guy; we're very happy for him," said Robert McArthur, the head pro at Riverside. "He's a very grounded individual."

After graduating from BYU in 1992, Wilson played on various mini-Tours — he won the Utah Open in 1998 — but always returned to Provo. McArthur had jobs for Wilson, who was a regular at Riverside from the time he graduated until he went to play on the Japan Tour in 2000.

Wilson had won six tournaments in Asia, but his best PGA finish was third place at the 2004 Texas Open. This year, he had three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour before Sunday.

Even though he lives in Las Vegas, Wilson has always kept close ties to Utah.

"He was here last week helping with our invitational," McArthur said. "He likes to hang around, and he always brings stuff to auction off. Everyone's in a good mood when he's around."

Wilson is just the fourth Hawaiian to play regularly on the PGA Tour and the third to win. Ted Makalena won the Hawaiian Open in 1966 and David Ishii won the Hawaiian Open in 1990.

Wilson is a late-bloomer who didn't even take up golf until he was 13. He played a year at BYU-Hawaii and then walked onto the BYU golf team in 1989. Within a year, he was a regular, and in 1991, he won the Western Athletic Conference individual title. During his BYU career, he teamed with Mike Weir to win three WAC titles.

Not only did Wilson move from 63rd to No. 21 on the money list, he also vaulted from 68th to 22nd on the Ryder Cup list. He'll likely need a top-3 finish at this week's PGA Tournament to qualify for the Ryder Cup. However, if he stays in the top 30 on the money list, he can play in the year-ending Tour Championship and also earn an invitation to the Masters.

In 2003, Wilson received a lot of acclaim when he was paired with Sorenstam for the first two rounds at the Colonial in Dallas. While some pros were critical of Sorenstam's inclusion, Wilson was very gracious and even wore a "Go Annika" button. Coincidentally, Sorenstam won the Scandinavian TPC in her native Sweden on Sunday.

E-mail: sor@desnews.com