July 15, 2000
Portland, Ore. – Qualifying medalist D.J. Trahan, 19, of Inman, S.C. and Clemson University overcame a gutsy charge from Ben “Bubba” Dickerson, 19, of Hilliard, Fla., to win the 36-hole match play final of the 2000 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Heron Lakes in 37 holes.
The 37-hole match tied for the longest in the 75-year history of the championship. It had happened six times previously, the most recent being Guy Yamamoto’s win over Chris Riley at Eagle Bend G.C. in Bigfork, Mont. in 1994.
Trahan became the second Clemson player to win this tournament. Kevin Johnson, now a regular on the buy.com tour, won the event in 1988. Johnson also was a finalist in 1989. However, in those days, winning the Public Links did not bring an invitation to the Master’s.
“It means a ton, it’s a national championship,” Trahan said of his hard-fought victory. “Any time you can even have a chance to win a national championships is just a wonderful feeling and a great thing. To actually win it is unbelievable, breathtaking. There’s not enough words to describe it.”
The U.S. Amateur Public Links is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Trahan receives a gold medal, custody of the James D. Standish Jr. Cup, and an invitation to play in the 2001 Masters Tournament. Each finalist is exempt from qualifying for the U.S. Amateur this year at Baltustrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J.
His victory made him the first Amateur Public Links medalist to win the title since David Berganio in 1993. Ironically, the medalist has won the championship in all three of the Amateur Public Links’ visits to Portland — 1979 (Dennis Walsh at West Delta G.C. now Heron Lakes), 1990 (Michael Combs at Eastmoreland), and now Trahan at Heron Lakes.
Trahan made four birdies and hit seven fairways and 12 greens during the first 18 holes at the 6,869-yard, par 72 yard Great Blue Course to take a 3-up lead into the final 18 holes of the match.
The 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year in his freshman season at Clemson, Trahan built his advantage to 4-up after 25 holes with a 28-foot birdie putt on No.7. After three successive halved holes with par, Trahan’s lead disappeared.
Dickerson, a rising sophomore at Florida, won three consecutive holes as Trahan bogeyed Nos. 11, 12 and 13. Trahan actually made four straight bogeys but his 5 on the par-4 14th halved the hole.
“When I got to 4-up, I was looking to hit solid shots and put the ball on the greens and make some putts,” Trahan said. “I started to struggle with my game out there. I was getting a little frustrated with myself and I let that bother me. He started making some good shots and applying the pressure. He made some great putts.”
The slender Clemson player won the 16th with a par to go 2-up. Dickerson then holed a 15-foot putt >from the collar to save par on the 17th to win the hole, closing the gap to 1-down. He followed with a clutch downhill, 8-foot birdie putt to win the 18th and even the match after 36 holes. Trahan then parred the 37th hole with two putts while Dickerson made bogey.
“I honestly didn’t have control of the match,” Trahan said. “He had to make the putt on 17 and he had to make the putt on 18. He was in control of his own destiny there and he made two great putts. He was trying to take the match from me, is what it came down to.
“I made four bogeys in a row as just as soon as I’m 4-up, I’m 1-up. If I could have kept the ball in play and hit some better shots, I could have been dormie on the 15th or 16th.
A freshman All-American, who set the Clemson mark for scoring average at 72.48 this year, Trahan reached the final eight at the 1996 U.S. Junior Amateur and qualified for the U.S. Amateur, previously, in 1996 and 1998.
He was the first alternate from the Greenville, S.C. qualifying site. When an exempt player, Jedd McLuen, who had qualified for the U.S. Open, declined his invitation to the championship, Trahan was called and he accepted.
Dickerson, who qualified for the 1999 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, was a tenacious opponent and forced Trahan to earn his title.
“I was telling the USGA officials that I have never seen a guy make two more clutch putts than Bubba did,” Trahan said of his opponent’s clutch putting on holes 35 and 36. “I mean, guys make 30 footers that are lucky, but he made two huge putts to even the match.”
Trahan’s March to 75th United States Amateur Public Links Championship 1st Round: d. Jerry Strege of Fond Du Lac, WI, 5 and 4 2nd Round: d. Martin Maritz of Tulsa, OK, 6 and 5 3rd Round: d. Adrian Quintela of El Paso, TX, 2 and 1 4th Round: d. Jered Gusso of Savage, MN, 3 and 1 Semis: d. Kyle Thompson of Columbia, SC 3 and 2 Finals: d. Ben Dickerson of Hilliard, FL, 1 up, 37 holes
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