AUGUSTA, GA (WJBF) – In golf and in life, sometimes you can’t control the negative, but you can still overcome it.
In 1991 Valentino Dixon’s life took an unpredicted turn when he was arrested and wrongfully convicted of murder at a local hangout in hometown of Buffalo, New York.
” 89 witnesses came forward and the person who committed the crime came forward and confessed, all of those people were disregarded. 10 months later, I went to trial with a public defender, he didn’t call any of the witnesses and I was found guilty on all charges,” said Valentino.
He was sentenced to 39 years to life, spending nearly three decades at the Attica Correctional Facility.
” You know as time went on, I realized that God had a plan for me, I didn’t quite know what that plan was but God was sending me signs man, sending me signs to stay strong, focusing on the future even though I was sitting in a prison cell and I was in the worst prison in America.”
From an early age, Valentino knew he had a gift, yet it took him seven years behind bars to find it again. During that time his uncle gave him some advise that would elevate himself as he strived for better.
” My uncle said, hey if you can reclaim your talent, you can reclaim your life, and he says you may have to draw yourself out of prison and I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when he said that”.
For 13 years and 10 hours a day, no days off, Valentino drew as his life was on the line. He earned the name the ‘Artist in Attica’. He found inner peace and a new love for sketching golf courses, but none of them caught his attention like Augusta National.
” I look at other golf courses and there is no comparison, you know to the color of the dirt to the landscaping, its just the flowers scene, its just so much more than the golf course”, said Valentino as he described his sketch of the 12 hole. “I would like to say me and the 12th hole are one, like we are related, you know each time you spend hundreds of hours just drawing one hole, you know what I am saying, that speaks volumes in itself”.
In 2012, his artwork and his story was featured in Golf Digest in a column by Max Adler called, “Golf Saved My Life”, and from there on, he gained national attention and was able to prove his innocence.
It was everything. I felt that God finally came through, you know and I can’t describe it man, you know like my life could have ended then”
Valentino has know since left New York and resides less than 20 minutes from the Golf Course that he will forever be connected.
” You know I am going to be honest with you, for the first time in my life I have peace, I came down here very hospitable, people are very friendly and it was just different from New York,” he adds.
He has attended one Masters Tournament and has shared his story with some of the greatest golfers of the game, such as Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
” My life’s purpose is to impact as many people as possible, you know to get people to understand
that we just can’t think about ourselves, we have to think about others.”