2002 Masters: Amateurs make the most of thier Masters experience

Augusta, Ga. | Amateurs took their lumps at the 66th Masters. But they’ll get over it.

Ben “Bubba” Dickerson, Michael Hoey and Robert Hamilton launch pro careers this week. Tim Jackson turns his attention back to the hotel management and car fleet leasing company in which he’s a general partner. Chez Reavie has exams at Arizona State and the upcoming NCAA Championship to worry about.

British Amateur champion Hoey made the best showing of the bunch, shooting 75-73–148. His 4-over-par total was one shot shy of the cut. Players can only claim the silver cup for Masters low amateur if they make the cut.

“I played pretty good,” said Hoey. “I tried hard this week. I missed it by one. That’s not disastrous.”

Hoey, 23, from Northern Ireland, played for Clemson and on the victorious 2001 Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team. He hopes to earn his PGA European Tour card via sponsor exemptions, although he’s already used four this season. He tied for 12th at the Dubai Desert Classic in February and tied for 11th last year at the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, where he’ll play this July as a pro.

As the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, Dickerson was paired with defending Masters champion Tiger Woods. After opening with a 79, Dickerson bounced back with a 71 in the prolonged second round. He was 2 under through 10 holes Friday before play was suspended because of rain, then restarted Saturday morning with two bogeys. A birdie at the 15th righted the ship and left him secure in his plans to announce April 16 his decision to turn professional.

“That was my goal,” Dickerson said. “I knew I wasn’t going to make the cut, but I wanted to make an under-par score. I hit the ball pretty well. It’s just a matter of making putts and managing my game a little better. That’s what killed me this week. It’s just that I didn’t manage the course well the first day.”

Dickerson was married in December and will turn 21 on May 6. He left the University of Florida in January and expects to make his professional debut April 25 at the Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic, playing on a sponsor exemption. In turning professional, Dickerson loses exemptions as U.S. Amateur champion to compete at the U.S. Open and the British Open this summer. Dickerson said he will attempt regional qualifying for the U.S. Open.

“You always think about the (U.S.) Open, but I don’t think I’d be able to last (as an amateur) until the British,” he said. “It’s pretty expensive to stay amateur that long.

“These days, it’s so tough to get exemptions (on the PGA Tour). If you don’t start at a certain point – early – you’re not going to get your seven exemptions. I just want to make sure I get my seven and have a chance to avoid going to Q-School.”

Dickerson has six available exemptions remaining in 2002 after playing in the Bay Hill Invitational, where he finished 74th.

Also competing in the sponsor-exemption arena will be the dapper Hamilton, who shot 77-77–154 but had the amazing good fortune to be paired with Arnold Palmer in the King’s final appearance as a Masters competitor.

“Playing the Masters is a dream, but playing with Arnold Palmer – it was just unimaginable to get that pairing,” said Hamilton, who made a point of getting to the course early Thursday so he could watch Sam Snead open the proceedings. “It’s a story for my grandchildren, where I was when Arnold Palmer walked up 18 at the Masters.”

Hamilton, 23, graduated from Cal-Berkeley in 2000, but opted to hone his game – and his body – as an amateur for a year before turning professional. His plans were extended to include a Masters date when he finished as runner-up to Dickerson at the U.S. Amateur. Now, he’s waiting for PGA Tour sponsor exemptions (the B.C. Open and FedEx St. Jude have expressed interest) and hoping to Monday qualify for some Buy.com Tour events.

Jackson, the 43-year-old U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Germantown, Tenn., tied Hamilton and Sandy Lyle for 76th place, shooting 76-78–154 in his second Masters (he also won the 1994 Mid-Am).

“I didn’t have my best game this week,” said Jackson, who plans to play his usual full slate of national amateur events this summer.

Reavie finished 85th, shooting 74-86–160 and finishing ahead of only Palmer and Charles Coody, but he may have been the most grateful player to compete at Augusta National. Five months ago, Reavie feared his Masters debut was in jeopardy. The U.S. Public Links champion’s left wrist was encased in a cast, and his prognosis for recovery uncertain.

“It was scary. Very, very scary,” said Reavie. “I was shaken. I had no idea what to expect.”

Reavie, 20, injured the wrist during a practice round with his Arizona State teammates last September. A ligament popped loose when he hit something solid while attempting a lob shot out of tree mulch.

Doctors couldn’t agree on a treatment, whether to try risky surgery or lengthy immobilization – neither of which was guaranteed to solve the problem. Reavie ended up in a cast for two months and was unable to hit a golf ball for five months.

He started hitting half wedge shots in February, gradually working his way through the bag. He returned to action for Arizona State later that month in the TaylorMade Big Island Collegiate tournament in Hawaii.

“My driver was 40 yards short, and I was hitting two more clubs with my irons,” Reavie said. “But I still finished fourth, just bunting it around.

“I’ve come a long way in the last month,” he said.

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