Former local tennis star nearly nets (golf) Tour win in a pinch

VICTORIA, British Columbia – Tuesday, Shreveport’s Cotter Wilson landed on Vancouver Island without his luggage, but with no worries because a relaxing week — outside the ropes – at Philip Barbaree Jr.’s PGA Tour Canada debut was in store.

Little did he know his competitive juices – he’s a former five-star recruit and No. 1-ranked high school tennis player in Louisiana — would boil again when he was ushered onto the front line in a battle for a victory on a golf course, unfamiliar territory, with a relative stranger.

“I thought they were joking,” Wilson told The Journal regarding the pressure cooker he landed in on Sunday.

Wilson, a 23-year-old former Ole Miss tennis star, was pressed into duty as a caddie – for the first time in his life. His job? Loop for the co-leader in the final group of the first PGA Tour Canada tournament in nearly three years.

“Within a couple hours of landing in Victoria, they told me to be ready for the weekend because Cooper (Dossey) was going to need someone on the bag for him,” Wilson said.

PGA Tour Canada rules give players the opportunity to carry their own bag for the first 36 holes. However, competitors who qualify for the weekend must employ a caddie. Dossey, a Baylor product and longtime friend of Barbaree, Wilson and I (as PBJ’s regular caddie for more than six years now) stayed at an Airbnb for the week.

Dossey, a former Baylor star, has been on a heater since the fall. He may be the only human on the planet with two sub-60 tournament rounds in the past nine months – 59 at the first stage of Korn Ferry Qualifying School (Golf Club of Houston in September) and a 58 at OakWing Golf Club during an APT Tour Event in Alexandria in March.

This week, he was fueled by three pizza dinners and four straight trips to Marble Slab Creamery in downtown Victoria. Dossey carried his own bag and opened with rounds of 67-66 at Uplands Golf Club to climb into the top 10 midway through the event.

One misstep on Friday caused PBJ to miss the cut, but he was a star for his buddy on Saturday. Barbaree, who hadn’t carried a bag since his high school days, had the best seat in the house and played a significant part in Dossey’s dazzling 6-under 64 that vaulted him into a tie for the lead at 13 under.

“It’s always fun to have a buddy carry the bag for you,” Dossey said. “Walking 18 with Phil in the third round gave me peace and comfort. We had a blast. I don’t think there was ever a point in the round where I got nervous. He kept me calm and confident in my game. He did such a good job of forgetting about missing the cut and helping me win a golf tournament — that’s not easy to do and for that I’m so thankful. I’m excited to travel the rest of Canada with Phil this summer.”

However, Barbaree – starting the long trip home to Shreveport — wasn’t available to help on Sunday.

Wilson began his day by driving Barbaree to the airport at 6:30 a.m. and then watching his favorite tennis star, Rafael Nadal, capture his record 22nd major championship with a French Open title.

That afternoon it was time to put on the caddie bib for the first time ever.

“Even though my only contributions were some encouragement and a few jokes, it felt fun to have a dog in the fight and be a part of some competitive action,” said Wilson, whose parents, Lauren (Centenary, SMU) and Grady (LSU), played tennis in college. “I had a blast out there. Between seeing one of my best friends play and getting to caddie for the first time, it definitely made my week in Canada memorable.”

Wilson got the full caddie experience. Not only was he on the leader’s bag most of the afternoon, he weathered a caddie’s worst nightmare – rain. Dossey led by two strokes when play was briefly suspended and wound up one stroke out of a playoff.

“Today was one of those days where the small margins show up big time,” said Wilson, who estimates he’s played 15 rounds of golf in his life – not one since midway through the pandemic. “I can remember a lot of matches where it felt like the win was right on my racket, but you’re always aware that there’s more work to be done, so you do your best to stay present in the moment. Sometimes you clutch up, others you don’t. You have to live with it and be ready to fight the next time you can. No one wants to admit it, but the nerves always turn up a couple notches in those moments.

“It doesn’t matter how long it has been since you last competed; every athlete would agree that closing is the toughest thing in sports. Cooper battled hard down the stretch and he finished well, but there are definitely a few putts that he’d like to have back.”

A 15-under total – 8 under on the weekend – fell just short. However, Dossey briefly heads back to the States in third place in the Fortinet Cup standings (the top 10 at the end of the season earn Korn Ferry status).

“Coming into the week, I didn’t know Cotter too well. I leave knowing him very well. He is such a good man of faith and encouraged Phil and me so well this entire week,” Dossey said. “He made it fun today and that’s all I needed. Although we didn’t get the win, I feel like I’m leaving Victoria with a victory in gaining a brother in Christ.

“I’m extremely grateful for Phil, Cotter and Roy this weekend. They encouraged me, pushed me to be better and made me laugh when I needed it. Edmonton (the next stop on the Tour) isn’t ready for our crew.”