DICKERSON remembers Woods comebacks, pulls off one of his own

ATLANTA (AP) _ After remembering a couple of Tiger Woods&#39; comebacks at the U.S. Amateur, Bubba Dickerson pulled off one of his own. <br><br>Now, the two have a date to play next spring at Augusta National.

Monday, August 27th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ After remembering a couple of Tiger Woods' comebacks at the U.S. Amateur, Bubba Dickerson pulled off one of his own.

Now, the two have a date to play next spring at Augusta National.

Dickerson, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Florida, rallied from a big deficit in the morning with Tiger-like flare, then beat Robert Hamilton with a birdie on the 36th and final hole Sunday at East Lake Golf Club.

Dickerson was 13 when Woods won the first of three straight Amateur titles in 1994 at the TPC at Sawgrass, near Dickerson's small hometown of Hilliard, Fla. Woods was six down to Trip Kuehne after 13 holes, but won six of the last 10 _ including the final three.

Two years later, Woods completed his sweep of Amateur titles by rallying from 5-down with 16 holes to play and 2-down with three to go against Steve Scott, who also played at Florida.

Dickerson thought back on both of those comebacks when he was 5-down after just 14 holes.

``I knew it was a long day and that my turn to score would come around,'' Dickerson said, ``and that we would be pretty close going down the stretch.''

He was right. The two were tied going to the final hole _ a 235-yard, uphill par-3. Dickerson hit first, his ball crawling up the elevated green and stopping just 15 feet from the flag. Hamilton couldn't match, yanking a 3-iron into a deep bunker on the left side.

He needed two more whacks just to get on the green and then missed a long putt for bogey. By then, Dickerson knew the title was his, but he stepped up and made his birdie putt anyway.

Robert Dickerson charged onto the green to hug his son, who broke down in tears before accepting the Havemeyer Trophy.

``I've thought about it my whole life, not just this week,'' he said.

Dickerson will play with Woods next spring at Augusta National, which traditionally pairs its defending champion with the Amateur winner. In addition, Dickerson can play in the U.S. Open and British Open as long as he remains an amateur.

Hamilton also gets an invitation to the 2002 Masters after reaching the final in his first Amateur. He failed to qualify six times.

``Going to 18, I still felt pretty good,'' said Hamilton, who remained an amateur after graduating from California last year. ``I still had a chance to win. At the end of the day, that's all you can ask for.''

Dickerson lost four of the first five holes in the morning, prompting him to make a change at the turn _ a fashion change, that is. He switched to the same orange shirt he wore on the final day of Florida's victory in the NCAA Championships.

Originally, Dickerson planned to wear the shirt only for the afternoon round.

``I didn't want to smell bad at the end of the day,'' he quipped, sitting beside the Havemeyer Trophy. ``But now, who cares?''

Dickerson won the last four holes in the morning, going birdie-par-birdie-par to trim his deficit to just one hole after the first 18. The two went back-and-forth during a thrilling, if sloppy, afternoon round, neither player gaining more than a one-hole advantage.

Dickerson double-bogeyed the 16th after fading his drive beside a small pine tree, putting Hamilton 1-up. But the 23-year-old from Carmichael, Calif., cracked at the next hole, putting his drive in the rough and making bogey.

They went to the final hole all square, with Dickerson eager to put the pressure on his opponent.

``I went with a hard 4 (iron) and just dead ripped it,'' he said. ``I couldn't have hit it any better.''

Dickerson had reason to be confident. His last three matches all came down to the final hole _ and he won then all. Hamilton had not gone to the final hole in a match all week,

``It maybe helped me to be a little more confident over the club at 18 than he was,'' Dickerson said. ``The more you play a hole, the more you get used to it.''

Dickerson comes from a blue-collar background _ his father runs a used-car dealership and repair shop while his mother is a rural letter carrier. Hilliard, about 20 miles north of Jacksonville, is a town of 3,000 with one red light.

``This,'' Dickerson said, ``will be pretty big news.''

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