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Next Level... Watson's Golf Career Took Off at WIU

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

By Jeff Holt

Published March 4, 2021 in The Burg

Dusti Watson has a comical story about his time as a student at Western Illinois University. It was the first day of his freshman year on the Macomb campus. "We are in class and a professor goes around the room asking every student why they are here," he said. "Why are you at Western?"

Continued Dusti, "When he got to me, he was kind of caught off guard. My reply was I'm here to play golf. His reply back was, well, I hope by your senior year, you will have changed your mind." Dusti laughed a bit about the memorable story and then finished it. "I never changed my mind. It was my senior year and it was still my same answer," he said. A 1993 graduate of WIU, Watson responded by winning 13 tournaments during his golf career for the Leathernecks. As a senior, he fired a 7-under-par 65 in the Bent Creek Classic (March 26-27, 1993). This achievement still stands as the second-highest in program history for an 18-hole performance. During the 1990 Mid-Conference Championships, he took home medalist honors with a first-place score of 219 (75-72-72). He capped off that 1990-91 season being named the Mid-Con Athlete of the Year and First Team All-Conference. "The WIU golf program was exactly what I was looking for to elevate my game and continue my golf career after graduation," Watson said. The dedicated Watson was recruited in the Fall of 1988 by Coach Mel Blasi for his freshman year at Western. He went to play for Coach Mike Hainline his final three years at WIU. "Dusti was my first big recruit as a Division I coach," said Blasi, recently. "He was very well known throughout the state and regionally as he and his sister Cindy competed in junior tournaments all over." Continued Blasi, "Dusti was perhaps the most dedicated player I've ever coached. He wanted to be great and he was willing to put in whatever effort it took to get him there. He had the perfect temperament for the game. He was extremely competitive and always a gentleman on the golf course. He set a very high standard for what I still look for in an ideal recruit ... someone who is totally in love with and dedicated to the game, and will represent the university or college in the highest regard." Blasi is currently the head men's golf coach at Central College in Pella, Iowa. He was a four-time Summit League Coach of the Year for the Leathernecks (2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008). Blasi closed by saying about Watson, "If I could have five Dusti Watson's on my team, we would never lose! Because winning is not always about finishing in first place. It's about giving your best effort and being a gentleman at the same time. Dustin always did those things." Life after college: Dusti turned pro right after graduating from WIU, which was a dream of his since he was 10 years old. He competed on several tours over the course of six years playing full time. The tours included - the Nike Tour, Hooters Tour, South American Tour, Tommy Armour, Cleveland and Moonlight tours. "Turning professional turned my golf into a career and the added pressure of needing to make a check to stay out there as long as possible," said Watson. "Your mind will play tricks on you when you stop focusing on winning the tournament and just trying to make cuts. I was very fortunate to have many wonderful sponsors from the Galesburg and surrounding area over several years. It was an experience I will always cherish and encourage other kids and adults to follow their dreams."

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