Reflections on the Amateur


If ever a place and an event were made for one another, this was it. East Lake and the U.S. Amateur. East Lake Golf Club was Bobby Joness club. The Amateur was Joness championship.

Jones won the Amateur Championship five times. The final time ' in 1930 ' gave him a sweep of all four major championships that year.
As the 312 players who started this week in the 101st U.S. Amateur Championship walked through East Lakes historic clubhouse, 312 jaws dropped.
The centerpiece in the lobby was the Havemeyer Trophy, the glamorous prize awarded to the Amateur champion. On display on the front wall are all four trophies from Joness 1930 Grand Slam. The staircase is lined with newspaper clippings of the golfing greats many accomplishments. One walks through this place and realizes it is golfs hallowed ground.

My God! This is where he played. This was his championship. To win this U.S. Amateur championship would surely be something special.
The 312 were whittled down to 64 for match play. The youngest player to make it that far was 17-year-old Daniel Summerhays of Farmington, Utah. Bobby Jones would have been proud of Summerhays, whose uncle, Bruce, stars on the Senior P.G.A. Tour. After young Daniel surprised everyone, especially himself, by winning his first three matches and advancing to the quarterfinals, he said, I really didnt expect to do much when I got here.
The high school senior had a wonderful perspective. I figured if I played real well I might make it into match play and maybe win one. Im just enjoying being here Im soaking it all in, he said.
Daniel never stopped smiling, even after he lost in the quarters to Robert Hamilton. As Jones, himself, might have said, Summerhays gushed I just love the game of golf.

The stamp of Bobby Jones is, thankfully, all over this championship. The two players good enough and lucky enough to make it to the final earn invitations to the Masters ' the championship created by Jones.

Next year the aforementioned Hamilton and Ben Bubba Dickerson will get to play Augusta National in April. After winning their semi-final matches they both said, Its a dream come true.

Dickerson had just missed an invitation to the Masters last year when he lost in extra holes in the final of the U.S. Public Links Championship. Hamilton had never come close. In fact, the former University of California golfer had tried and failed to qualify for the Amateur six previous times.
In Sundays 36-hole final, it was the more experienced Dickerson who looked nervous early. Bubba double-bogeyed the second hole and bogeyed the fourth. Meantime, a steady Hamilton birdied holes three and five to win four holes in a row and go four-up through the first five. All week long Robert had said hed been eerily focused. The key to his success was the ability to stay in the moment. Hamilton was enjoying this moment.

Dickerson had matched or bettered par in four of his five previous matches. His worst medal score was one over par. But in the final Bubba was five-over through 14 and five-down. Dickerson had rallied from two-down with four to play in the semi-finals and he came from behind again. Bubba birdied two of the final four in the morning 18 while Hamilton bogeyed two of four. Dickerson captured four holes in a row. When they broke for lunch, Hamiltons lead had dwindled to just one hole.

The second 18 was a nail-biter. No one led by more than one hole. It was all square when the two reached the 36th. The match ended when Dickerson hit a brilliant tee shot to 12 feet on the 235-yard par-3 and Hamiltons shot buried under the lip of a bunker. Dickerson had the luxury of three putts to win the championship. He calmly rolled in his birdie for a one-up victory.

What a summer its been for Dickerson. He helped his Florida Gators win the N.C.A.A. championship. He won the prestigious Western Amateur and now becomes the first player since Tiger Woods to win the Western and the U.S. Amateur the same year.
When asked what went through his mind when he faced a five-hole deficit today, Dickerson said he remembered how Tiger had rallied from six-hole deficits to win two of his Amateur titles.

Now Dickerson can look forward to next April when he will be paired with Woods for the first two rounds of the Masters. The Amateur champion and the defending Masters champion. A Tiger and a Bubba at Bobbys place.