With Louisiana Open victory, Dickerson fulfills promise

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When the tournament went to a playoff, Bubba Dickerson called upon his match-play prowess.
March 29, 2009
Dave Lagarde, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

BROUSSARD, La. -- Mindy Dickerson had no idea she would be doing play-by-play late Sunday afternoon, but there she was just off the 18th green at Le Triomphe Country Club, describing the late action in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries.

Dickerson was speaking in hushed tones, but not into a microphone. She was whispering into a cell phone.

Inside the Numbers
Dickerson's Final Stats
Category Total Rank
Eagles 2 T1
Birdies 13 T41
Pars 50 T21
Bogeys 7 T49
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 75.0% T19
Driving Distance 289.5 yds. 10
Greens in Regulation 72.2% T15
Putts per Round 28.8 T23
Putts per GIR 1.750 26
Sand Saves 50.0% T34

When Brian Vranesh's 12-foot birdie putt slid by the first playoff hole on the high side, she cooed the words her father, Joe Nettles, wanted to hear.

"Ben won,'' she said. "Ben won.''

Ben is her husband, who goes by the name Bubba Dickerson these days. But back when the couple first met -- in the 10th grade at West Nassau High in Callahan, Fla. -- he introduced himself using a derivative of his given name, Benjamin.

It has been a while -- too long, Bubba will tell you -- since Mindy has been able to say those two magic words. Toss out a Hooters Tour victory in 2002 and you have to go all the way back to 2001, as a matter of fact. That's when Dickerson stamped himself as a player of promise when 'Ben won' the U.S. Amateur.

So no wonder there were tears of joy all around after a gritty Dickerson knocked in a 14-footer for birdie and watched as Vranesh's attempt to tie trundled past the cup. Mindy was crying. Joe Nettles, Dickerson's father-in-law who was listening to Mindy's call, was, too.

Then it was Bubba's turn at the awards ceremony, where he attempted -- and happily failed -- to force out a discernible sentence before the sprinkler system kicked on.

That's the point that Dickerson exhaled and blew away those cruel golf demons that have haunted him.

"It has been a long time,'' he said. "This is a tough sport. It's hard to win and it keeps building. Every tournament gets tougher. Every day gets tougher. It has been tough for a few years.''

That's the trouble with great expectations when they go unmet. But Dickerson kept trying and he finally got the job done.

Through 10 holes Sunday, it sure looked like Dickerson, who shared the 54-hole lead with Scott Sterling, was going to have to keep trying for at least another week. He couldn't get anything going through seven holes, and then things got worse -- much worse. He missed a three-foot birdie putt on eight, plugged in a greenside bunker to bogey nine and three-putted 10 to fall off the first page of the leaderboard.

Enter his caddie and father, Robert Dickerson, who, it turns out is somewhat of a lucky charm.

"I had to keep his head in it,'' said Robert, who looped for Bubba when he lost on the 37th hole of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and when he finished sixth in his first pro event on the Hooters Tour. "I told him to keep playing. 'If you keep your head in it, we can do this.'"

What Bubba is sure to discover is, there were at least three more people -- Mindy, their daughter Avery, 5, and Nettles -- who were keeping the faith as they watched the developments on PGATOUR.COM.

"My dad kept telling me things would be fine,'' Mindy said when she finally came to the course.

It was the same message Avery delivered, just with different words. She said: "It's O.K., Mommy. Daddy's gonna do it.''

Meanwhile, Bubba credited Robert with keeping the pedal to the metal. When Bubba started to pull a 3-wood on the tee box of the 559-yard, par-5 12th, Robert counseled against the conservative play.

"Here's your best club,'' he said, handing his son the driver. "Hit it.''

Dickerson boomed it and then played a 5-wood second from 245 yards to within five feet. He made the putt and was back in the hunt, just one off the lead that was shared by Vranesh, Matt Bettencourt, Matthew Borchert and Vance Veazey. Vranesh was the only one to stay there after the other three bogeyed the 18th.

Knowing he needed a birdie, Dickerson delivered with a five-footer on the 71st hole and then rode the momentum of it all the way to the finish line while Mindy was calling the action to her dad on the 72nd and playoff hole.

Dickerson, who excelled at match play as an amateur, found his comfort zone once the head-to-head battle began in the playoff. He was happy to hit the first approach shot into the green as well as hit the first putt.

"I was thinking nothing but line and hole,'' he said. "I was pretty confident once I got into a match-play situation.''

And that's precisely where Bubba Dickerson finally broke through with his first significant victory more than six years after turning professional. Had anyone told Dickerson the wait would be this excruciating way back when, he would have had a terse reply.

"I would have said, 'You're crazy,' '' he said. "But I was pretty cocky back then.''

Dickerson is no longer cocky. He is a winner at long last, just like Mindy called it.

Ben won. Ben won.