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Former Clayton State athletes making mark in pro ranks

Chris Klute recently trained U.S. Soccer National Training Center in California with the hopes of making the 2014 U.S. World Cup team. (Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

Chris Klute recently trained U.S. Soccer National Training Center in California with the hopes of making the 2014 U.S. World Cup team. (Garrett Ellwood / Colorado Rapids)

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Will Wilcox finished tied for eighth in his first PGA Tour event at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He went into the final round tied for second. (Reuters News Service)

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Alicia Robinson

MORROW — A trio of former Clayton State athletes is trying to make its mark in the professional ranks.

Over the last couple weeks, former Lakers are having breakthrough moments in soccer and golf. Chris Klute, a former soccer standout, moved a step closer to making the 2014 U.S. World Cup team.

On the PGA Tour, Will Wilcox almost netted a $1 million payoff in his first official profession tournament.

Recent graduate, Alicia Robinson will start a professional soccer career with a team in Sweden.

Klute was one of 10 players invited to train at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, Calif., last week to make the 26-member team.

The former Laker has been invited to train with team later this month, as the squad will travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil for 12 days. The team will train at Sao Paulo FC’s facilities and play two closed-door scrimmages.

“He deserves this, and we are so proud of yet another positive step in his career,” Clayton State head coach Pete Petersen said. “So many folks have been a part of this and I know they are so proud as well. His mom, the Creavalle family, his club coaches Ray Tomlin and Todd Gispert, coach Doug Allison from Furman, his youth national team coaches, Ricardo Montoya from the Silverbacks organization who brought along Chris (Klute) and Eric Wynalda who has guided this process.”

A central defender for the Lakers in 2011, Klute is a starting defender for the Colorado Rapids in the MLS. He played in 31 matches and started 30 matches for the Rapids last year, who finished fifth league’s Western Conference. He finished with seven assists this year, which led all left backs in the 19-team league.

Wynalda, a former forward on the U.S. team and recently named Atlanta Silverbacks Technical Director commented on how impressive Klute was at the National Training Center last week during all the fitness tests. “Chris has such a huge upside and potential, it is scary,” said Wynalda, who is also a FOX Sports Soccer commentator. “He is gifted with speed and is very coachable. His link up play is very good and his strongest attribute is the fact he doesn’t get beat very often. Although young and needing some games at this level, he could be the best left back ever to play for the US.”

On the PGA Tour, Wilcox almost pulled off an amazing feat in the first event of the season.

The former Div. II All-American was tied for second place entering final round of Sony Open in Hawaii in his debut on the Tour.

A three-time All-American at Clayton State from 2007-09, Wilcox made birdie on his last two holes for a 64 on last week. His round included seven birdies and just one bogey. He opened the tournament with a 69 on Thursday and a 66 on Friday.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen this week,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Making the cut was a dream come true. Playing good on Saturday was a dream come true. Getting to have a decent shot tomorrow (Sunday) is ridiculous. We’ll see.”

He would finish tied for eighth in the event, which netted him a $119,000 payday. In 17 events last season on the Web.com Tour, Wilcox played in 17 events, making 15 cuts for $248,372 in earnings.

Wilcox qualified for the PGA Tour by finishing 10th on the Web.com Tour money list last year. Before this week’s tournament, he qualified for the RBC Canadian Open in 2010 and for the U.S. Open in 2011 at Congressional.

Robinson, who just completed her eligibility past fall for the Lakers, signed a professional soccer contract for a team in Sweden. After helping lead Clayton State to the Peach Belt Conference title, Robinson was named a first-team All-American.

A midfielder from Telford, England, Robinson led the conference with 10 assists.