In Summary
  • For the first seven years in prison Dixon said he was simply bored, but then he began "drawing my butt off." He spent up to 10 hours per-day drawing, refining his technique and impressing those around him.
  • After being shown a photo by a prison guard, Dixon drew a picture of the 12th hole of the famous Augusta golf course in Georgia. That launched him on a journey to draw other clubs, and even to invent his own.

WASHINGTON

Convicted for a crime he did not commit, Valentino Dixon spent 28 years behind bars. Then, less than a year after his release, he has returned to prison to tell inmates how golf saved his life.

"I played twice (and) I am no good at it," said the 49-year-old during a visit to a penitentiary in Washington.

Yet it was this sport that ultimately got him out of jail and which now allows him to lobby for reform in the US penal system before unexpected audiences.

Dixon, who grew up in a rough neighbourhood of Buffalo in the northeastern United States, had never before set foot on a green when his life was upended one night in August 1991.

That was when a fight broke out in front of a restaurant and shots were fired, leaving a man dead.

Two days later, on the basis of an anonymous tip-off, police arrested Dixon, who was at the time the young father of a six-month-old baby girl.

Another man later told reporters that he was the one who actually pulled the trigger that night, but the authorities refused to speak to him.

"Eight witnesses cleared me of the crime. When I went to trial, my lawyer did not call any of those witnesses. So, I was convicted and given a 39-year sentence," Dixon told AFP.

For the first seven years in prison Dixon said he was simply bored, but then he began "drawing my butt off." He spent up to 10 hours per-day drawing, refining his technique and impressing those around him.

After being shown a photo by a prison guard, Dixon drew a picture of the 12th hole of the famous Augusta golf course in Georgia. That launched him on a journey to draw other clubs, and even to invent his own.

One day, he wrote to a journalist penning a column called "Golf Saved Me" in the magazine Golf Digest.

Recognizing his talent, the reporter did some research on Dixon and penned a long article about him.

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