SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For some LPGA-bound amateurs, college (or even high school) can seem a race to greater things, and sometimes a safety net until those greater things pan out. Karinn Dickinson, however, belongs to a different school of thought – one of ample preparation.
In early-week U.S. Women’s Open programs, Dickinson’s name – one that’s largely unknown – is preceded by the lowercase amateur “a.” The letter explains why Dickinson has disappeared somewhat over the past two years. After four years on the University of Washington roster, Dickinson wasn’t quite ready in the spring of 2011 to leave the Northwest in pursuit of a professional career. She gave herself one additional year to hone her game in preparation for LPGA Q-School. When that year was up, Dickinson still didn’t feel ready, so she took another.
“I really wanted to grind on the game, just the swing and everything, to get to where I wanted it to be and needed it to be – just as prepared as I could to go to Q-School and take my game to the next level,” she explained.
It’s a rare decision for a 23-year-old, and there’s no better reminder of that than this week. Dickinson plays in her first Women’s Open at Sebonack as Michelle Wie, also 23, plays in her 10th. Paula Creamer, 26, and Morgan Pressel, 25, are each playing in their 11th national championship.
In finding that perfect level of preparation, Dickinson has bounced around the Northwest. Seattle was her original home base, and that’s where Dickinson met swing coach Joey Pickavance. She’s since moved with Pickavance to Bend, Ore., where she works and plays out of Pronghorn Resort.
Dickinson’s path has not been the norm for a Division I player with eyes on a professional career, but she maintains it was important to her not to rush. Dickinson had two victories during college, one in her first event as a freshman and the second in her senior year, and put together a 76.93 career scoring average.
Dickinson was born in Washington, spent her formative years in Norway then returned to Washington with her father Kenneth in 2006 as a high school senior. The goal always was to play college golf for the University of Washington, where Kenneth had played basketball in the 1970s. Dickinson insists the secondary goal always was proessional golf.
Mary Lou Mulflur, longtime Washington head coach, can’t remember a female player – from Washington or otherwise – who has chosen the same path to professional golf as Dickinson. The decisions Dickinson has made send this message: She’s clearly doing it because she wants to do it.
“Not a lot of players have the maturity to do that,” Mulflur said.
Mulflur remembers texting Dickinson a message of congratulations when Dickinson qualified for the Women’s Open out of the sectional qualifier in Portland, Ore.. Mulfur said she’s grateful her former player finally found the top level, having always known there was more for her to achieve after college. Mulflur remembers Dickinson’s sense of humor, that she had an ease about her and never complained.
There is no better progress check than qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open, something that Dickinson calls “any golfer’s dream.”
“I feel like these last few years of hard work have really paid off,” she said.
An added bonus is Dickinson’s knowledge of Pronghorn, a resort that has both a Jack Nicklaus course and Tom Fazio course. It’s a place that reminds her a little of Sebonack Golf Club in the bunkering, the long fescue grass, open fairways and small, hard greens.
At the outset of the week, Dickinson decided to finally ditch her amateur status. She has forgone even the small checks awarded to the winners of low-level professional events in order to play what she deems a better competition schedule. There are more opportunities for amateurs in the the Northwest, Dickinson explained, than for professionals. Dickinson filled out her schedule with the occasional Cactus Tour event in Arizona, but still never cashed a check. She won the Washington Women’s Amateur in 2012 and made it to the quarterfinals of the Oregon Women’s Amateur earlier this month.
Qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open is arguably the best accomplishment yet in her young career, and suddenly the decision to turn pro became less about what the future holds but about what the week would hold. Dickinson had been hoping to defend her Washington Women’s Amateur title this week, but when the Women’s Open calls, Dickinson is smart enough to answer. Thus, turning professional was a no-brainer.
“Nothing was holding me back from turning pro other than that tournament so I didn’t see why not,” Dickinson said.
When the week at Sebonack is over, Dickinson has some restructuring to do in her competition schedule. She had filled her schedule with more amateur events, and now guesses she’ll hop around to different state opens before landing at LPGA Q-School in the fall. In essense, the wait is over.
There’s no better introduction to professional golf.