The RBC Canadian Open was all set up to be a storybook finish over the weekend, which should have been the first clue that Dean Wilson wasn’t going to win it.
Never mind that he led by four strokes Sunday; if there is anything we have learned in Wilson’s 18 years of pro golf it is that he doesn’t do movie-of-the-week endings.
Not that he doesn’t want to—or couldn’t use one about now with his PGA Tour playing privileges hanging in the balance. Few of the golfers on tour right now merit such a return on their practice of enduring patience and tenacity the way the Castle High graduate does.
If there was a higher glory in grinding, Wilson would be the Tiger Woods of resilience and clubhouse leader in persistence. As it is, he is someone to be respected and admired for the way he meets challenges head on.
It is just that, for whatever reason, the golfing gods seemingly long ago decided they had a different role in mind for him. And, Sunday, it was second place, one stroke back of Carl Pettersson, who shot a course-record 60 on Saturday and got the "I still-can’t-believe-I-won-the-tournament" finish, headlines and $918,000 winner’s check.
Let Phil Mickelson have the heart-tugging story lines. Give Michelle Wie the red carpet and mega-buck endorsements on potential. Make Louis Oosthuizen the breakthrough guy. Wilson got the Sisyphean part of rolling boulders up mountains.
Wilson is Golf Channel reality TV, not the Disney Channel.
To show you how it has been for Wilson, the lone PGA Tour tournament that he won, The International in 2006, was discontinued the following year. So much for savoring the position of defending champion. So he did what he’s always done, shrugged and reapplied himself, pressing on.
With the tournament exemption from that victory having expired, now he’s a guy continually struggling to keep his PGA Tour card and, this year especially, trying to scratch out enough tournament opportunities in which to get it back.
He is 110th on the year’s money-winner list (up from 210) and needs to finish 125th or better at year’s end, which means, without the exemption-assuring victory, the struggle deepens.
But, then, that’s been his familiar uphill path ever since being bewitched by golf as a youngster. Wilson, much as he would prefer it to be otherwise, doesn’t do easy and never has.
He is a product of the Pali Golf Course—no country clubs for him. Nothing extraordinary about his game, either, as he acknowledges.
Even in college he toiled just to get a place on the team as a walk-on. At Brigham Young, coach Karl Tucker told him in a moment of pique, "You’re a dime a dozen and I can get another one just like you tomorrow. For all I care, you can paddle your canoe right back where you came from."
Except that, as he came to learn, Wilson really wasn’t a dime a dozen then—or now. Those kind of guys would have given up the arduous path to the pro game long ago for something with a much more assured living, like sealing BP oil wells. They wouldn’t have knocked around on other tours or kept grinding all these years.
One of the things Wilson did earn from his runner-up finish in Ontario was a place in this week’s PGA Tour stop at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.
So, he picks himself up from the disappointment of the RBC Canadian Open, grabs his clubs and determination and, as always, marches resolutely on, chin up.
The only way he knows how to go about it.