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Former ABAC Golfer Named to Athletics Hall of Fame

March 2, 2017

A former professional golfer who was twice named First Team All-America at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has been selected as a member of the 2017 class of the ABAC Athletics Hall of Fame.  Joey Dixon, who led the Golden Stallions of Coach Wayne Cooper to back-to-back state titles in 1984 and 1985, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on April 7.

ABAC Athletics Director Alan Kramer said the 2017 class also includes the 1964 state championship men’s basketball team, tennis player Luiza Biktyakova, softball standout Lacy Whatley, soccer star Katrina Duncan-Marshalleck, basketball player Worth Hartry, Tift County Recreation Department Director Craig Sowell, and the posthumous induction of former ABAC volleyball and tennis coach Alton Hudgins.

Tickets to the 6 p.m. ceremony on April 7 in Gressette Gymnasium are $35 per person.  The event also includes top award winners from the ABAC Alumni Association as a part of the 2017 Homecoming Week activities.

Tickets to the dinner and ceremony can be purchased from the ABAC College Advancement Office at (229) 391-4900. The deadline to purchase tickets is March 27.  There will be no tickets sold at the event. For more information on the 2017 Homecoming Week, interested persons can visit the web site at www.abac.edu/homecoming.

Dixon is a Pierce County High School graduate who had several college opportunities to play golf when his career ended with the Bears.  He’s glad he chose ABAC.

“I felt like ABAC was the best place for me,” Dixon, now 51, said.  “I think the world of Coach Wayne Cooper.  ABAC was a very cozy place.  It was probably the best two years of my life up to that point from a growing-up standpoint.  Everybody looked out for everybody else.”

In his freshman year at ABAC, Dixon won the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association individual title at the University of Georgia course in Athens despite a shaky start.

“Through the first four holes, I was four over par,” Dixon remembered with a chuckle.  “Coach Cooper always threw his hands up in the air so we could signal to him how close we were to par.  When I signaled to him that I was four over, he about went crazy.  Then I had two eagles and a birdie on the next five holes and won the tournament by five shots.”

ABAC finished fourth in the national tournament that year behind the outstanding play of Dixon, who wound up 10th in the individual competition.  In 1985, the Stallions recorded an eighth place finish in the national tournament after winning yet another state title.  Dixon was a first team All-America selection both years.

Dixon’s heroics on the golf course earned him a scholarship to Georgia Tech after he completed his ABAC eligibility.  In 1986, the Yellow Jackets were the preseason number one college golf team in America.

“I went up there with great dreams,” Dixon said.  “In fact, I won the first qualifying tournament we played in by 11 shots.  But I found it hard to balance the tough academics at Tech against the schedule we had as golfers.  I was out of sorts.”

Dixon became a professional golfer in 1987.  He began by playing the Space Coast mini-tour before traveling to South Africa in 1989 and 1990 to tackle the South Africa Professional Golfers Association tour.

“I played against some Hall of Famers over there,” Dixon said.  “Nick Price, Tom Lehman, and John Daly were playing over there and many others.  In my first four-day event, I shot 10 under par.  I felt good about my score except that I still lost by 11 shots.

“I called my dad and told him that I was playing better than I knew how to play but I had a problem because as good as I was playing, I still lost by 11 shots.  I told him I needed to get a job.”

Dixon did set one tournament record in the second round of the South African Masters.  That was after a practice ball he hit prior to the round landed in the middle of a caddy’s head and knocked him out cold.  In an extraordinary effort of concentration, Dixon erased the episode from his mind and started making birdies on what seemed to be every hole, resulting in a score of seven under par on the front nine.

“I just turned off my consciousness and started playing unconscious,” Dixon said.   “I later took my wife over to South Africa in 2010 and showed her some of the places I played.”

Dixon married Kelly Ann Sullivan in 1993.  She’s not a golfer but they did meet on a driving range in Marietta.

“Her dad had told her that all the nice guys played golf,” Dixon said with a laugh.  “That was the first and only time she went to the driving range.”

After battling Parkinson’s Disease for five years, Dixon retired in 2016 from his 20-year career as a manufacturer’s representative in the golf industry.  The Dixons live in Greensboro at Reynolds Plantation.   He’s looking forward to returning to Tifton for the Hall of Fame ceremony.

“It’s nice to be acknowledged,” Dixon said.  “I have led a life of practice and effort and sacrifice.  I had a great career at ABAC, and I really enjoyed it.  This is quite an honor.”
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