Quite A Road Trip
Steve Wilson Took Time Off From Running A Couple Of Gas
Stations In The South To Win In The Midwest.
2008 Championship Annual: The Year In Review
By David Shefter, USGA
Come September in the upper Midwest, sports fans are accustomed to seeing a cagey old pro from southern Mississippi work his magic on lush green turf. Well, Brett Favre is no longer plying his trade at Lambeau Field, but a fellow athlete from the Magnolia State — and a fellow alum from Southern Mississippi University — did the honors at Milwaukee Country Club.
Steve Wilson, sans No. 4, instead outfitted in a collared shirt and sweater vest, won the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Wilson, a 38-year-old reinstated amateur who co-owns two gas stations on Mississippi's Gulf Coast, registered 14 one-putts over 32 holes in beating 30-year-old ex-minor-league baseball player Todd Mitchell, of Bloomington, Ill., 5 and 4, in the 36-hole final.
"It's like hitting the lottery for me," said the Ocean Springs, Miss., resident who, by winning the Mid-Amateur, likely earned an invitation to the 2009 Masters, and did earn exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateurs, as well as the next two U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links championships. "I never believed I could win anything this big."
While attending Southern Miss in the late 1980s, Wilson witnessed plenty of big moments on the gridiron by future NFL Hall-of-Famer Favre. His best friend, Scott Jackson, even roomed with Favre. When Mid-Amateur attendees and media members from around Wisconsin found out that Wilson occasionally had played golf with the beloved Green Bay Packer-turned-New York Jet, the questions came faster than downhill putts.
"I'm good friends with his brother, Scott," Wilson said. "I need to call him and at least tell him how many questions I got about Brett."
And his buddies back home probably were plenty inquisitive about how Wilson managed to win in the first place. "If you talk to people I play golf with a lot," Wilson said afterward, "they'd tell you I'm the worst putter ever. But I'm long and hit a lot of greens in regulation."
With help from ex-professional golfer and business partner Gary Martin, who served as his caddie during the week, Wilson, the 2007 Mississippi State Amateur champion, holed one critical putt after another, and credited the bentgrass on this classic Harry S. Colt/Charles Alison layout — a putting surface he seldom sees in the South. "I'm telling you, this stuff is perfect," he said. "You start it on the line and it goes in."
He never trailed in a match after the ninth hole of his third-round victory over Jim Dunlap. Wilson, who had never won a match in this format prior to the Mid-Amateur, played his final four matches of the championship in the equivalent of two over par (with concessions) after winning his first two in 10 over.
"The boys back home, when they read: great short game, 14 [one-putts] in 32 holes, they're going to think, 'Who is this guy?'" Wilson joked.
"I don't know how to explain it." David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer.This article first appeared in the 2008 Championship Annual, a special publication mailed to USGA Members in November.