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One and Only For a brief, shining moment back in 1992, Andy Dillard was the biggest name in golf

June 12, 2000
June 12, 2000

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June 12, 2000

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One and Only For a brief, shining moment back in 1992, Andy Dillard was the biggest name in golf

Ever heard of Andy Dillard? Of course you haven't, unless you
follow pro golf with a microscope. He plays far away from the
PGA Tour, with guys trying to scratch out enough money to meet
their next car payment. But Dillard is different from the
others. In 1992, when the U.S. Open was last held at Pebble
Beach, he made headlines by producing opening-round fireworks
unequaled by anyone in the long history of the tournament.

This is an article from the June 12, 2000 issue Original Layout

Dillard was born in Tyler, Texas, in 1961 but played for
Oklahoma State in the early '80s, and when he joined the PGA
Tour in 1986, the press guide listed his home as Oklahoma City.
It also said he was 5'8", 190 pounds, but Dillard admits that at
the time he was more like 220. A fellow pro once said, "Andy
could stand in front of the sun and cause a solar eclipse."

Dillard finished fifth in the Hawaiian Open that first year on
Tour and ninth in the International, but he never did that well
again and by '89 was struggling to eke out a living on the Hogan
tour. He played, he said, "anywhere in anything that offered the
hope of money."

That included a lot of high-stakes games at Oak Tree Country
Club, in Edmond, Okla. He was $800 down one day coming to the
final hole, so he pressed, lost and paid the $1,600 from a wad
of bills in his pocket. "Of course it was whip-out," he says.
When he was broke, his mother lent him money to keep him going.

Twice Dillard missed qualifying for the Open by a single stroke,
once when he hit an approach to the wrong green. "It was at
Diamond Oaks in Fort Worth," Dillard says. "I hadn't had a
chance to play a practice round and was still half asleep. The
hole was a dogleg right, and I just fired straight. One of the
guys I was playing with saw what I was doing and never said a
word. But that was my responsibility."

In 1992, having gotten through the first stage of Open
qualifying in Oklahoma City, he earned a spot in the Federal
Express St. Jude Classic on Monday, then qualified sectionally
for the U.S. Open on Tuesday. Five days later he finished 61st
at Memphis and earned $2,376, a fortune for him. That money
helped finance the trip to Pebble.

The Tour chartered a plane from Memphis to Pebble Beach, and
Dillard and his girlfriend, Tammy Sullivan, shared a rented home
in Carmel with another golfer, Willie Wood. Dillard's practice
rounds were encouraging but in no way prepared him for what was
about to happen in the first round. "It was a bluebird day," he
recalls. "I was grouped with Bob Estes and Tom Jenkins, teeing
off at 10:20 a.m. I wasn't the slightest bit nervous, which was
strange because at the qualifier in Memphis I was choking my
guts out."

Dillard smacked his first drive down the middle, hit a
seven-iron shot 10 feet from the pin and sank the putt. At the
par-5 2nd he almost chipped in for eagle. At the 3rd hole, a
dogleg, downhill par-4, he hit a nine-iron to seven feet.
Birdie. Up went Dillard's name on leader boards around the
course. When he hit a pitching wedge close at the next hole for
a fourth birdie and then a six-iron to eight feet for a fifth,
Dillard noticed that "waves of people had begun to gather
outside the ropes. You could hear the buzz of the crowd."

The 6th hole at Pebble is a par-5 that heads out toward Carmel
Bay, and Dillard's group had a long wait while the group in
front cleared the green. His caddie, Rich Motacki, who four
years earlier had worked for Jeff Sluman when he won the PGA at
Oak Tree, mentioned that Billy Ray Brown had seen the fins of
tiger sharks swimming in the bay.

"I'm from Oklahoma," says Dillard. "I had never seen a shark, so
we went over to take a look. Then the USGA official with our
group came over and told me I ought to concentrate on golf. Hey,
I had just started with five straight birdies. No way I could
concentrate more."

It looked as if the birdie barrage would end when Dillard's
third shot to the 6th stopped 25 feet from the flag, but his
putt hit square in the middle of the cup and dropped. "Good
thing," says Dillard. "That ball was zinging."

Coming off the green, Estes said, "That must be some kind of
record." He was right. No one before or since has started a U.S.
Open with six consecutive birdies. George Burns had made six
straight in the 1982 Open at Pebble Beach, but not on the first
six holes.

The string ended on the tiny par-3 7th. Dillard hit a pitching
wedge to 15 feet but made, in his words, "a really bad putt." He
finished the front nine in 30, then came home in 38. His 68 put
him in a three-way tie for third with Phil Mickelson and Steve
Pate, a stroke behind two-time Open champ Curtis Strange and two
behind his Edmond pal Gil Morgan.

By the start of the second round the weather had turned cold and
dank. Dillard, teeing off after 2 p.m., started shakily, but on
the 6th hole he reached the green in two and holed a long putt
for eagle. When he got to 18, it was nearly dark, but fans were
still in the bleachers, many of them chanting, "Go, Bubba, go."
Dillard rammed home a 10-footer for birdie and a 70.

Dillard's 138 for 36 holes put him in second place, three
strokes behind Morgan. His mind ever on money, he told the
press, "I figure the least I can make now is $5,000. I don't
mean to be disrespectful to the USGA, but if I ever won this
championship, the first thing I'd think about is the money. It
would take a while for the honor to sink in."

Alas, it is time to bring the tale of Andy Dillard's '92 Open to
a merciful end. Paired in the final group on Saturday with
Morgan, he shot 79 to Morgan's 77 and afterward apologized to
Morgan for his bad play. "I played lousy," he says today. "I had
never been in the last group. I was used to being on the
practice putting green with a bunch of guys, shooting the
breeze, but on that Saturday at Pebble there were just the two
of us, Gil and me, all alone."

On Sunday he added a 77. "That was a good round under the
conditions," he says. He tied for 17th and earned $18,069, more
than he could have hoped for when he arrived. "One stroke
better," Dillard says today, "and I'm in the Masters. How I
would have loved that."

In the years between the last Open at Pebble Beach and the one
coming up next week, these things have happened to Andy Dillard:
In 1996 his mother died of cancer. A year later he married
Sullivan, and in '98 she gave birth to their daughter, Brittni
Taylor. Tammy is a computer programmer at Tinker Air Force Base
outside Oklahoma City.

Almost every year since '92 Dillard has returned to Q school,
trying to regain his Tour card. No luck. He contents himself
with the Lone Star tour in Texas. "I could make more money on
other mini-tours," he says, "but they would take me too far from
home."

Dillard thinks about '92 and Pebble Beach every day. "It still
haunts me," he says, "but to be honest, winning the tournament
never occurred to me at the time. I wasn't savvy enough. Put me
in the same spot today, and I know I could do it."

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL BAPTIST STILL AT IT Far removed from his record-setting birdie streak at Pebble Beach, Dillard mostly plays on the Lone Star tour these days.COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN MAIN ATTRACTION In '92 Dillard hung around the lead until the weekend, when he shot 79-77 to finish a still-respectable 17th.
Dillard noticed that "waves of people had begun to gather
outside the ropes. You could hear the buzz of the crowd."