Dickerson aces, makes run at title from chase card
October 14, 2019 by Jamie Thomas in Recap with 0 comments
Grey skies that seemed to loom just inches above the pine forest cathedral lingered for most of the afternoon as the Open field grappled one last time with the W.R. Jackson course at the International Disc Golf Center to decide a Hall of Fame Classic champion.
The humid atmosphere added to the lethargic vibe on the lead card through the front 9 where, in similar fashion to last week’s United States Championship, the story was more about who was catching the leaders from behind than who was setting the pace out front.
Calvin Heimburg began the day one throw shy of Adam Hammes, and the battle of Hamburg would begin just steps from the building that contains the Hall of Fame. Featuring the only two players in the field to score under 60 in the opening two rounds, it was set up to be a middleweight finesse battle. Neither man the flagship player for his sponsor, neither known exclusively for power, yet having plenty on tap, and both with the ability to range big putts and shape lines down the snaking par 4s and 5s of this par 68 championship caliber course. More on these two in a minute.
JohnE McCray badgered1 his way into the final grouping with a spirited moving day performance, and though the sportsbooks would call him a dark horse, he’d prefer to just focus on putting on a show. The momentum with which he catapulted to the lead card was present in his final round as well, it took time to build, but the payoff was as exciting as any other storyline this weekend. After four successful scrambles on the newly implemented holes 3-6, McCray would begin to find his rhythm once again on the back 9. He finished with six birdies in his final seven holes, and on the 18th he had earned the opportunity to throw a sidearm hail mary in hopes of busting his way into some bonus golf. Ultimately an 8-under par round from McCray would leave him where he started in fourth place, finishing at 23-under par total.
James Conrad would complete the foursome, though the proficient woods player would finally see the proverbial USDGC exhaustion catch up to him. His perfect scramble and Circle 1X putting statistics both would fall victim to one of the tougher holes on the course, the pick-your-hyzer, split-fairway hole 6. Only 39% C2 in regulation on Sunday, Conrad would have a total of 11 scramble scenarios by the end, more than any other player on the lead card by at least three. Though he would capitalize on most of his other opportunities, playing from out of position left him on the outside looking in early. Conrad would fall to a tie for ninth, finishing at 16-under par total.
For much of the final round Chris Dickerson was stealing the attention away from the lead card, as his solid play all weekend had him primed to make a run at the title. Another prolific competitor on tight fairways, and a deadly sniper with the putter in his hand, Dickerson earned his way into the title conversation with a bogey-free 5-down front 9 from the chase card. A birdie on the 10th to an incredible 420-foot blind ace on the 11th, not 30 minutes after Matt Dollar captured the first-ever ace on that same hole. As news of the hole-in-one reached the lead card, the energy instantly ratcheted up. Dickerson was two back, only half as far behind as he started the day, and was picking up steam.
Meanwhile, the battle of Hamburg was becoming a war of attrition. Heimburg had tied it by the 5th, given it back on the 7th, and tied again on the 8th before his putter inexplicably abandoned him between holes 10 through 12. Heimburg was staring down very makeable putts that would have likely been enough to give him some breathing room. Instead he missed two from inside 10 meters and another good C2 look.
For his part, Hammes was battling demons of his own and did not capitalize in that moment. He found himself riding the emotional roller coaster comprised of high expectations and relatively little experience in the position. Up by one stroke on the 14th tee, he threw a shot that flirted with the right side rough, and exasperatedly asked aloud, “Why do you do this to yourself?”
What he would do from there, however, was give himself an opportunity to win his first National Tour. After a fortunate redirect on an aggressive forehand line for his third shot, he would capitalize with a birdie on the hole 14, and he would hit three putts on the final four holes from outside of 25 feet, including a do-or-die birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Heimburg had similar struggles. A bogey on the hole 15 forced him to get aggressive on the short and technical 16, the same hole that ultimately did-in Paige Pierce earlier that day, resulting in a two-stroke swing after Hammes bogeyed. Heimburg would also shakily knock down a birdie look on 17 from the outer limits of the circle before scrambling for a par to match Hammes’s birdie on 18.
The Battle of Hamburg would continue into extra holes, and almost featured a third contender, but Dickerson missed his only C1X putt of the weekend on the 18th to miss out on the bonus golf. After matching shot-for-shot on the first two holes, it was ultimately Heimburg who emerged victorious with a shallow C2 connection on hole 3 to bookend his breakout season on tour.
Heimburg swept the money with his performance, winning both the largest share of the event purse, as well as the PDGA National Tour points bonus – oh, and one of those deluxe REC TEC grills to boot, courtesy of the title sponsor of the event. Dickerson and Dollar were each awarded one of those sweet pellet grills for their aces, and Hammes himself can hold his head high as well. Only the 18th highest-rated player in the competition, Hammes has given us plenty of tape to watch, as he just may be this author’s pick for breakout player of 2020.