Ever heard of Andy Dillard? Of course you haven't, unless you follow pro golf with a microscope. He plays far away from the PGA Tour, with guys trying to scratch out enough money to meet their next car payment. But Dillard is different from the others. In 1992, when the U.S. Open was last held at Pebble Beach, he made headlines by producing opening-round fireworks un-equaled by anyone in the long history of the tournament.
Dillard was born in Tyler, Texas, in 1961 but played for Oklahoma State in the early '80s, and when he joined the PGA Tour in 1986, the press guide listed his home as Oklahoma City. It also said he was 5'8", 190 pounds, but Dillard admits that at the time he was more like 220. A fellow pro once said, "Andy could stand in front of the sun and cause a solar eclipse."
Dillard finished fifth in the Hawaiian Open that first year on Tour and ninth in the International, but he never did that well again and by '89 was struggling to eke out a living on the Hogan tour. He played, he said, "anywhere in anything that offered the hope of money."
That included a lot of high-stakes games at Oak Tree Country Club, in Edmond, Okla. He was $800 down one day coming to the final hole, so he pressed, lost and paid the $1,600 from a wad of bills in his pocket. "Of course it was whip-out," he says. When he was broke, his mother lent him money to keep him going.
Twice Dillard missed qualifying for the Open by a single stroke, once when he hit an approach to the wrong green. "It was at Diamond Oaks in Fort Worth," Dillard says. "I hadn't had a chance to play a practice round and was still half asleep. The hole was a dogleg right, and I just fired straight. One of the guys I was playing with saw what I was doing and never said a word. But that was my responsibility."
In 1992, having gotten through the first stage of Open qualifying in Oklahoma City, he earned a spot in the Federal Express St. Jude Classic on Monday, then qualified sectionally for the U.S. Open on Tuesday. Five days later he finished 61st at Memphis and earned $2,376, a fortune for him. That money helped finance the trip to Pebble.
The Tour chartered a plane from Memphis to Pebble Beach, and Dillard and his girlfriend, Tammy Sullivan, shared a rented home in Carmel with another golfer, Willie Wood. Dillard's practice rounds were encouraging but in no way prepared him for what was about to happen in the first round. "It was a bluebird day," he recalls. "I was grouped with Bob Estes and Tom Jenkins, teeing off at 10:20 a.m. I wasn't the slightest bit nervous, which was strange because at the qualifier in Memphis I was choking my guts out."
Dillard smacked his first drive down the middle, hit a seven-iron shot 10 feet from the pin and sank the putt. At the par-5 2nd he almost chipped in for eagle. At the 3rd hole, a dogleg, downhill par-4, he hit a nine-iron to seven feet. Birdie. Up went Dillard's name on leader boards around the course. When he hit a pitching wedge close at the next hole for a fourth birdie and then a six-iron to eight feet for a fifth, Dillard noticed that "waves of people had begun to gather outside the ropes. You could hear the buzz of the crowd."
The 6th hole at Pebble is a par-5 that heads out toward Carmel Bay, and Dillard's group had a long wait while the group in front cleared the green. His caddie, Rich Motacki, who four years earlier had worked for Jeff Sluman when he won the PGA at Oak Tree, mentioned that Billy Ray Brown had seen the fins of tiger sharks swimming in the bay.
"I'm from Oklahoma," says Dillard. "I had never seen a shark, so we went over to take a look. Then the USGA official with our group came over and told me I ought to concentrate on golf. Hey, I had just started with five straight birdies. No way I could concentrate more."