Paul Dickinson tees off on the 18th hole during the...

Paul Dickinson tees off on the 18th hole during the U.S. Open golf qualifier at Southampton Golf Club on May 7, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Paul Dickinson has traveled a long road to get to the PGA Championship this week at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The 45-year-old from Montauk, who is a teaching professional at the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, chased PGA Tour dreams when he was in his 20s but, after little success at the highest level of the game, he and his wife, Nicole, returned to Montauk to settle down and raise a family.

But Dickinson never stopped chasing his desire to compete, and this April at the PGA Professional Championship in Austin, Texas, he finished among the top 20 of the 312 competitors, earning a spot in the PGA Championship, which begins on Thursday.

"My first major, but better late than never, they say,” Dickinson said.

He will go off in the last group of the day, at 2:37 Central time, with big hitting tour pros Luke List and Patton Kizzire.

Dickinson has been a solid player in the highly competitive Met Section, but he’s never won anything here. He has been the medalist in a couple of U.S. Open local qualifiers. Now he finds himself this week among the greats of the game.

"From a professional standpoint, as a golfer, it’s definitely the top,” Dickinson said. "The whole experience so far has been basically overwhelming. This is a gigantic production, way bigger than any tournament I’ve ever played in.”

And there he was, on the same putting green as Tiger Woods, on the same driving range as World No. 2 Jon Rahm.

"It was neat to be on the putting green with Tiger Woods,” Dickinson said. “You can tell where he’s at because everybody is moving around to follow him. I’m in my own little world doing some putting and the next thing you know, Tiger’s standing on the putting green."

Dickinson was on the golf team at the University of Alabama-Birmingham with Rahm’s caddie, Adam Hayes.

"He brought Jon right over next to me to hit balls and I got to talk with him, that was cool,”  Dickinson said.

It will be a monumental challenge for Dickinson to make the cut here. Southern Hills is a stern test at par 70 and 7,365 yards. It has been a frequent major championship venue and was redone by the design firm of Gil Hanse, a former Long Islander.

"This golf course is strong. I’m trying to figure my navigation through it,” Dickinson said. “I’m not a very long hitter like a lot of these guys. I need to sneak it around bunkers. There is one par 4 that is a carry over a creek and bunker, a par 4 of more than 500 yards. I played it as a three-shot hole because I can’t carry it over the creek. I’ve got to lay back, scoot it up the fairway and with wedge in my hand try to get it up and down for a par.

"I thought the Black Course at Bethpage was hard. But this one beats it.”

His wife, who is a physical education instructor at the Montauk School, will arrive on Thursday as will his mother, Wendy. Sons Jack and Carter are playing for East Hampton in the Suffolk County baseball playoffs.

"My goal is to play the best I can possibly play,” Dickinson said. “I don’t have any control over what everybody else does. Like to give my all, my best, and see where that goes.”

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