Will Dickson’s Long Journey to Professional Golf
Nobody has ever said the road to your dream was going to be a straight one.
Four years removed from his historic run through the Rhode Island High School Golf scene, Will Dickson is less than three weeks away from making his pro debut on the G-Pro Tour.
Now 23 and residing in Atlanta, Dickson is living out his dream of being a professional golfer.
“Honestly, it’s been really really cool. I thought it would be a little different than it has been, but it’s been so much different in a good way. I can plan out my entire day, my entire week. I’m really focused on the other 16 hours of the day that I’m not playing golf, training, eating, sleeping etc… I wake up, go to gym, train with a group of guys, then I go to the course and practice,” Dickson tells GolfNewsRI.
However, the road to get to this point for Dickson has not been easy.
“I’ve been through a lot the last four or five years,” said Dickson.
High School Phenom
Dickson went to Moses Brown high school in Providence where he played under head coach Larry Tremblay, who is still the head coach there today.
In 2014, as a freshman, Dickson captured the high school golf individual state championship at Cranston Country Club.
It was Moses Brown’s first ever golf title.
That summer, Dickson made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Junior Amateur, where he was defeated by Will Zalatoris.
Zalatoris is now on the PGA Tour and nearly won the Masters in 2021.
As a sophomore, Dickson repeated the feat, winning back-to-back titles, but Dickson says at that time, high school golf wasn’t even his main focus.
“My freshman and sophomore year of high school I was focused on getting into college, playing AJGA’s, and all the best junior tournaments, then, of course, be there for State Championship,” said Dickson.
During his sophomore year, Dickson committed early to Georgia Tech, a golf program that has sent numerous players to the PGA Tour including Matt Kuchar.
“Once I committed to Georgia Tech, I almost started enjoying high school golf a lot more, my teammates, the matches. We had a really good team. It became a lot more important to me,” Dickson recalls.
High School golf became really important after Dickson’s junior year where he won a third straight title.
“It really became a thing where everyday I was asked ‘are you going to win a fourth?’, all of a sudden it was the biggest tournament of the year,” Dickson recalls.
Dickson went into the final round of the 2017 State Championship trailing Hendricken’s Colin Sutyla by six shots.
He trailed by three shots going into the 18th hole.
On the 18th at Cranston, Dickson made birdie, while Sutyla three-putted for a double-bogey sending the State Championship into a playoff.
On the first playoff hole, which was the first hole at Cranston, Dickson two-putted for par from about 35 feet.
Sutyla ran his birdie putt by several feet and his par putt did a 360 degree lip out, giving Dickson his fourth straight title.
“I remember certain shots I hit like it was yesterday, I remember certain putts. Those last 2 years of high school golf were really enjoyable,” said Dickson.
Dickson finished his senior year ranked as the number two junior player in the state, and the 72nd best junior player in the class of 2017.
It was off to Georgia Tech.
Sutyla would return and win the State Championship the following year. He is currently a senior at Iona where he plays golf.
The Georgia Tech Years
“It’s a pretty long story, not many people from Rhode Island really know what happened,” says Dickson about his time at Georgia Tech.
“Is it okay if I just talk for like five minutes?” he asks GolfNewsRI’s Joe Calabro.
Four Rhode Island state titles under his belt, Dickson headed to Georgia Tech where he played under legendary coach Bruce Heppler.
“I get in as a freshman, I was pretty cocky and confident. I was obviously expecting to play right away. I was up against Andy Ogletree, Luke Schniederjans, and Noah Norton. I didn’t qualify for any events Freshman year, coach had me redshirt,” Dickson starts.
“School was hard, adjusting to workouts, the environment was different. I really hadn’t had any advice on any of this stuff coming from Rhode Island. So my confidence quickly went down. Then, at the end of freshman year I tore my ACL, so that set me back 5-6 months.”
As a sophomore, things started out better, Dickson played in Georgia Tech’s home tournament during the fall season. But, the good vibes didn’t last long.
“I played in our our home event in October as an individual and came in dead last. Shot three rounds in the 80s. Lost to all my peers growing up. Finished dead last. Big blow to my confidence,” said Dickson.
Following that tournament, Dickson switched golf coaches, flew down to Jupiter, Florida to see a “top swing instructor,” but “nothing seemed to work.”
Like everybody else around the country, Dickson’s junior season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Through three years at Tech, Dickson had played just two tournaments.
“I told him, ‘Look, the reality is you really don’t play anymore, you’re not really a golfer, and so I need you to go play in some tournaments this summer. I don’t care where they are or what they are, you just need to go play, or we might have to give your tee time to someone else,” Heppler told Dickson, according to Golf Channel story from January of 2021.
While the pandemic was terrible, it might have saved Dickson’s golf career.
Instead of driving home, I went to my girlfriend’s family’s house near Augusta, Georgia. I literally stayed there for the entire summer and played at one golf course, Waynesboro Country Club everyday and never really practiced. I played golf with a group of guys and we played fun matches, best ball, scramble. Sure enough, I started shooting under par and a few weeks later 64, 65, 62 and my confidence and belief grew quickly,” said Dickson about his time in Waynesboro.
Upon his return to Georgia Tech, Dickson now had a different outlook.
Coach Heppler flew the team down to Arizona for the big Spring Qualifying tournament.
Dickson recalls shooting a 63, a couple of 68s and 69s to win by 11 shots.
“I was #1 on the team in LA and Hawaii. Then I played #2 and #4 for awhile. It was incredible being able to travel with the guys and just my perspective on how everything unfolded. I was able to enjoy golf and competing again,” said Dickson.
During the spring season, Dickson notched three top-20 finishes and was fifth on the team in stroke average.
Georgia Tech didn’t win the ACC, but did make it to the NCAA Tournament in Dickson’s senior season.
See Dickson’s Highlights from ACC Championship HERE
Dickson fired rounds of 73 and 77 in the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. He was replaced in the Georgia Tech lineup by Bartley Forrester.
“I didn’t play as good as I wanted to down the stretch but I was there. I can’t describe how nice it was to travel and see different parts of the world,” Dickson adds.
Due to covid, Dickson was among those granted an extra year of eligibility to play at Georgia Tech or go elsewhere.
Chatfield is in his extra year of eligibility at Notre Dame, Chris Francoeur transferred to Louisville for his.
“Coach came to me and talked to me about it, but I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought because it was undoubtedly clear in my mind what I wanted to do. I felt I was old enough and experienced enough to just go for it,” said Dickson.
“I’ve been through a lot the last four or five years and decided to move on.”
Dickson the Pro
Will Dickson will make his pro debut on October 26 in the Savannah Quarters Open on the G-Pro Tour.
The G-Pro Tour is one of the top mini-tours in the country.
The purse for the tournament has not yet been released, however, purse’s for previous tournaments on tour have been as much as $99K.
Dickson looks to make a name for himself there.
“What club companies and agents want to see is you play a full schedule, 20-25 tournaments a year and if you can finish in the top 10 of the money list on a mini-tour then that lets people know you can actually play with the best pros out there that are trying to make it,” said Dickson.
The G-Pro Tour only has two tournaments left of the season, the Savannah Tournament and then the Harbor Classic in November.
After that, it’s on to the 2022 season starting in February.
“The goal for 2022 is to finish high up on the tour’s money list. Then it is on to Q-School.”
It has been a long road for Will Dickson, but the grind and dream roll on.
Advice for Next Generation
Upon committing to Georgia Tech, Dickson was one of the first Rhode Islanders in recent history to commit to a big time program.
Patrick Welch, Andrew O’Leary and Davis Chatfield, among others, followed shortly after.
The current crop of Rhode Island golfers that have a chance to play for a big school, if they want, would include Harry Dessel, Max Jackson and Kylie Eaton, and Vinny and Gianna Papa.
Given all he has been through, what advice would Dickson give? GolfNewsRI asked..
“I would say you have to start early and that’s sort of loaded in itself. I’ve had kids text or DM me saying hey I’m gonna play college golf, what do I have to do. And they are like a junior in high school. They might be okay and getting better pretty quick, it’s unfortunate because they don’t realize most college teams are filled by a kid’s junior year in high school.”
Dickson also stressed that playing out of the State is important.
“You have to get outside of Rhode Island and outside of the Northeast if you want to go to a college outside of the Northeast. Coaches are from Oklahoma, Texas or Georgia. You have to expose yourself to the rest of the country, that’s what you have to do to get your name out there,” Dickson said.
He added, “I really can’t stress enough about how you need to get out there early, even if its just emailing coaches saying here is my resume, I’m playing here etc.. it takes 5 minutes and its so so important. Get outside of RI, play other places and contact as many coaches as you can.”
The Papa sisters have played down south most of the summer, Harry Dessel and Max Jackson have both competed in tournaments out of the region, like the Pinehurst Junior Amateur, and so has Kylie Eaton.
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