It begins this week. And at a U.S. Women's Open, no less.
The 23-year-old Dickinson, a 2007 Kamiak grad, was planning to turn pro later this year. It was expected to happen in the fall when she attends the LPGA Tour Qualifying School, where she hopes to earn a place on the 2014 tour.
But when Dickinson qualified for this week's U.S. Women's Open, her plans changed. She turned pro Monday and will be playing for her first competitive paycheck this week.
"This is unbelievably exciting," said Dickinson, speaking by telephone from Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. "It's probably the most excited I've ever been for any tournament in my career. It's the first professional-level tournament I've ever played in, the first tournament I've ever played in as a pro, and it also happens to be a U.S. Open."
After arriving Monday at the tournament site on Long Island, Dickinson spent three days playing practice rounds and honing her game on the driving range and putting greens. Around her have been some of the most recognizable names in women's golf -- among them, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Stacy Lewis, Natalie Gulbis and Michelle Wie -- "and now I'm standing next to them on the range," Dickinson said.
"Not to sound like a cliché," she added, "but this really is a dream come true."
Dickinson was born in Bellevue, but spent much of her childhood in Norway before returning to the United States for her senior year at Kamiak. She helped the Knights to the 2007 Class 4A state championship while tying for second place individually, and then moved on to play four years at Washington.
A year ago, Dickinson won the Washington State Women's Amateur championship by a whopping seven strokes. In recent months she has worked and practiced at the Pronghorn Club in Bend, Ore., while getting coaching from Pronghorn head pro Joey Pickavance.
Dickinson tees off at 9:30 a.m. PDT today, "and when I'm on the first tee, and when they announce my name and where I'm from, I'm pretty sure I'll be looking at my caddy and saying, 'Oh, my gosh, is this real? Am I really here?'
"I think I'll be very nervous," she admitted. "There'll definitely be butterflies, but I think they'll be good butterflies. ... I don't mind pressure and feeling nervous. You're nervous because you care about this tournament and you want to do well."
It will help to see her father, Kenn, in the crowd.
"He's a proud dad, so that's great," she said. "I don't think there's anything that makes him happier than seeing his daughter doing what she loves."
Dickinson is guaranteed to play two rounds, but she must get past the second-round cut to play on Saturday and Sunday. And, as always, only those players who survive the cut come away with prize money.
"I'd love to make the cut, play all four days and connect with every shot I hit out there," said Dickinson, outlining her goals. "Everything counts so much more this week than it ever has. And I have a feeling I might concentrate a little more because it's the U.S. Open.
"It just feels good to know that all my hard work has paid off and that right now I'm actually where I want to be."
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