Monday, March 05, 2007

Former Tar Heel proves good guys can finish first

You have to like a guy who has his priorities in order.

There was a time during the back nine of the final round of the Honda Classic Sunday at what appeared to be the nearly impossible PGA National golf course where Mark Wilson - the eventual champion - wanted to know how things stood.

Not in the golf tournament, but in the Duke-North Carolina basketball game being played in Chapel Hill.

Wilson played college golf at North Carolina (he’s a 1997 grad) but didn’t come out of Chapel Hill with quite the fanfare of Davis Love III. Basically, Wilson came out with a degree in math and a willingness to stick with professional golf as long as it took him to succeed.

He went through Q-school three times, most recently last fall, but Wilson changed his life Monday morning by winning a four-man playoff while most people were on their way to the office.

Wilson has been a good player - finishing between 128th and 167th on the tour money list the past four years - but not an exceptional one. Now he’s exempt for two years with an immediate goal of trying to play his way into the Masters.

If you’re still not sure what to make of Wilson, consider this:

On Friday, Wilson and Camillo Villegas (who was in the playoff) were paired together and, on the par-3 fifth hole, Wilson’s caddie told Villegas what club Wilson had hit off the tee.

It’s a violation of rules that forbid providing advice to other players. Wilson - whose caddie knew better but just blurted out the club when he overheard Villegas and his caddie talking - assessed himself a two-stroke penalty.

It makes you glad he won.