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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

Springstead's Dixon following Tiger's trail

Hernando Today correspondent


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Hernando County's 13-year state drought in boys golf concluded when Springstead senior Brazon Dixon snapped the dubious streak.

The last county player to reach the state's elite stage was Hernando High's Fred Farmer in 2000.

Dixon, 17, became the first Springstead linkster to reach states since the Eagles placed 10th as a team in 1990 - guided by former Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year Danny Latoria.

Dixon was born as the oldest of three children to Matthew Dixon and Tamika Evans in Bridgeton, N.J.

The Dixons resided in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California before relocating to Spring Hill.

Dixon has lived with his father in Spring Hill since he was 4 years old.

The current 6-foot-1, 175-pound Dixon has always been an avid athlete.

"I was always hyper when I was small," recalled Dixon. "I loved being outside. I loved doing anything. But I was also very competitive and to this day I hate to lose at anything."

Dixon has terrific DNA. His grandfather was an All-America football player, who played for the Blue Devils at Winter Haven High.

His father was a state champion pole vaulter from New Jersey.

He's recalls competing in Spring Hill Dixie Baseball for several seasons, mostly at shortstop or pitcher, starting when he was 5.

If he wasn't on a baseball diamond, he was active playing hoops at the Hernando County Family YMCA in Spring Hill.

He spent much of his extra time serving as the golf cart driver with his father and granddad at Oak Hills Golf Club in Spring Hill.

He vividly narrated the day when he was 7 and the game of golf changed his life.

To break up his boredom, he whined to his father to allow him to hit a golf shot. His dad shrugged, "Why not?"

Dixon picked up a 3-wood and whistled a shot 150 yards on the double dogleg par-5 sixth hole.

His dad and grandfather were stunned. They allowed him to finish the round.

After the trio got home, Dixon's father zipped to the local Target in River Country and bought a brand new set of Tiger Woods clubs for his son.

From there, Dixon took the reins. He'd go out to a nearby area and place a bucket about 200 yards away. He'd spend hours trying to hit the bucket.

"Back then, I was just having fun trying to hit that bucket," recalled Dixon. "That same year I got my first golf coach. Oak Hills' golf pro Buzz Walker saw me one day and thought I had a knack for the game. He gave me my first real lessons."

Two months later, before he turned 8, he was playing on the summer's North Suncoast Junior Golf Association Tour.

He and Wesley Chapel's Corey Mumaw each won three events and each qualified for the year-end Tournament of Champions at the manicured World Woods Golf Club.

Dixon remembers, "Corey demolished me on the first day. I wasn't having any fun. I told my dad I was going to quit, but he insisted that I finish the second day.

"On the second day, the tables were reversed. Corey had a terrible day and literally made every putt. I ended up winning the age group championship by one stroke - I'll never forget that first TOC."

Dixon was doubly impressed watching his idol, Woods, slay the PGA Tour.

"I'd see him play and that's how good I wanted to be," pointed out Dixon after watching his favorite player. "I remember watching him chip to win the 2005 Master's at Augusta. From that point on, I wrapped myself around golf."

Problem was Dixon was still playing baseball, but utilizing his undercut swing from golf. Something had to give.

"In those days, it was like I was always the best player on a bad team and that wasn't fun," he said. "To me, baseball became too easy."

Once he matriculated to middle school, he played golf for the Powell Panthers for three seasons.

He also displayed his diverse athletic versatility in track and field as a sixth- and seventh-grader competing in the 800, 1,600 and demanding long jump.

He even attempted to play for the Panthers' hoops team until a dislocated finger spoiled his return to the hardwood courts.

As a result, when Dixon entered Springstead, he concentrated on one sport - golf - for four seasons.

As a freshman, Dixon finished ninth in the local circuit in scoring (44.3).

He carded identical 85s during the Hernando County Championship at Brooksville Country Club and Class 2A, District 6 Tournament at Tampa's Pebble Creek Golf Club. In his initial regional appearance, he shot an 18-hole 91 total.

His sophomore year was reduced to four matches due to a wrist injury incurred during a pickup football game. He ranked fourth in the county in scoring average at 40.5 when he was sidelined for the remainder of the season.

As a junior, he finished fourth in scoring average at 40.8. His third season was highlighted with an 18-hole 81 in the county meet and an 84 in districts.

Dixon was consistently the team's No. 2 player behind the county's Player of the Year, Ryan Nicoll. Following the season he was named to his first All-County Team.

This season, Dixon paced the Eagles in scoring at 40.1 and finished third in the county in scoring behind NCT's Jake Arnett (37.7) and Hernando's Cody Montgomery (39.0).

The season included a personal-best, nine-hole 33 at World Woods against NCT.

More importantly, Dixon placed runner-up to Arnett in the 2A-13 Meet at Silverthorn Country Club behind a solid 18-hole 38-41-79 total.

SHS, led by Dixon, edged the host Sharks in a sudden-death, one-hole playoff for its third-ever district championship.

A week later at the 2A-Region V Meet at New Port Richey's Fox Hollow Golf Club, Dixon was the lone Hernando County linkster to advance to states thanks to an 18-hole 39-36-75 total.

At the 83rd annual FHSAA Finals at Howey-in-the-Hills' Mission Inn along the El Campeon course, Dixon finished tied for 47th out of 95 players behind a 36-hole 87-82-169 total.

The area coaches were so impressed with Dixon; he not only was named All-County, but was feted as Player of the Year.

"Brazon had a great season. He led us in scoring all season long," Springstead head coach Greg Odachowski said.

"After districts and regionals, he was understandably a little nervous at states," explained Odachowski. "He had a lot was going on in his mind.

"I'm going to miss the way he drives the ball so long. . Before the season I wasn't sure we had anyone who could replace Nicoll. As good as Nicoll was, Brazon went further by reaching states."

"Being named Player of the Year is a good thing; it's nice to be recognized," explained Dixon. "This (POY) isn't something I expected, but it's a nice title to have."

The pinnacle of Dixon's career arrived with making states, not playing at states.

"I'm still mad at how I played," fumed Dixon. "But there's nothing I can do about it now."

On analyzing his game, "One of my strong suits is my putting. It didn't used to be a strength," he detailed. "A couple years ago I'd average 32-36 putts per nine holes. Now, I've cut that number down into the 20s. My swing coach, Gary Nicoll, deserves a lot of credit. He always told me, 'You don't want to be the guy to miss a 4-foot tap in.'"

These days, Dixon is awaiting left knee surgery. He was injured trying out for Springstead wrestling.

He aspires to play professional golf.

"Once I get my knee scoped, I want to play on some tours. That's what I've been practicing my butt off for," he said. "Right now, I know I'm playing with one bad wheel. From time to time there's inflammation. I want to continue playing this game as long as I'm healthy."

Dixon took a moment to thank a few folks who have influenced his game including Ryan Nicoll.

"He's the guy I always wanted to beat, but couldn't," pointed out Dixon. "I still can't believe I made states and he didn't. He's the best I've ever seen play."

"I owe Buzz Walker a lot, too" Dixon said. "He's the one that helped me win my first championship."

"Gary (Nicoll) is the person who helped me with my short game and especially my putting," declared Dixon. "He's the one that got me thinking if I get the ball within 50 feet of the cup, I should make the putt."

"And I can't describe what I owe my dad for being so supportive over the years," added Dixon.

On his legacy, "I'd like to be remembered as one of the best golfers to come out of Springstead," Dixon said. "I just closed out my high school career and I'm opening up another."

By the numbers: Springstead's Brazon Dixon in 2013

- Compiled by TONY CASTRO


Weeki Wachee GlenLakes 9 43

Nature Coast Technical GlenLakes 9 43

Central Hernando Oaks 9 45

Weeki Wachee World Woods 9 40

Central World Woods 9 37

Crystal River Plantation 9 40

South Sumter Plantation 9 40

Hernando World Woods 9 38

Nature Coast Technical World Woods 9 33

2A-13 Tourney Silverthorn 18 38-41-79

2A-II Tourney Fox Hollow 18 39-36-75

2A States El Campeon 36 87-82-169

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