Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hooked by the Tour Amateur Champ Makes Emotional Choice to Turn Pro

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Hooked by the Tour Amateur Champ Makes Emotional Choice to Turn Pro

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Bubba Dickerson exhaled noisily, patted his chest several times, exhaled again, and then tried to speak.

He got out one word before his voice cracked.

Then came the tears, followed by the sniffles as he tried to compose himself.

Telling everyone he was turning pro was a lot harder than rallying from five shots down to win the U.S. Amateur. Dickerson accomplished that last August, but the 20-year-old from Hilliard was not able to get the words out yesterday during a news conference at the ESPN Club on Disney's BoardWalk. Still, he got the message across.

"There is nothing I'd rather be doing," said Dickerson, who will make his professional debut via a sponsor exemption at the April 25-28 Greater Greensboro (N.C.) Chrysler Classic at Forest Oaks Country Club. "I'm going to be competing against and learning from the best players in the world. I'm just 20 years old. How much better could it be?"

For Dickerson, not much. He grew up in a small town that did not even have a golf course. Instead, he honed his skills at Deerfield Lakes in nearby Callahan -- a 30-minute drive from his home. He became one of the nation's top junior golfers, earned a scholarship to the University of Florida, won the 99th Western Amateur, the 2001 U.S. Amateur, and then helped the Gators to the NCAA championship.

Turning pro was the next step. He just took it a little sooner than he had previously thought.

When Dickerson left Florida in early February, he planned to use a sponsor's exemption to play the Bay Hill Classic in March. He would then use the exemptions he earned at the U.S. Amateur to play the Masters and British Open, and then turn pro.

But the more he thought, the more he realized turning pro after the Masters would be the perfect way to end his amateur career. And he knew he'd be able to get a sponsor's exemption for Greensboro because of his relationship with tournament director Mark Brazil, who captained the 1997 Junior Ryder Cup Team of which Dickerson was a member. …

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