By Pat Wheeler
In 1992, I was living in Georgia and traveling the Southeast for a mortgage insurance company. Late one afternoon, I pulled into a nice golf course for nine holes on the way home to Atlanta.
It was the Thursday of the US Open and I peeked at the television screen as I was checking in at the golf shop. To my surprise, they were showing my old friend from Tyler, Texas, Andy Dillard on the tube.
Wow, I wonder why they are showing Andy, I pondered aloud.
“Well, he birdied the first six holes starting out,” the young assistant pro said.
Excuse me? The first six holes of the US Open? Oh my goodness, little Andy Dillard!
It is hard to believe that week is now 30 years in the rearview mirror but time marches on and now little Andy Dillard is an older guy with grown children and instead of looking like the Michelin man, he now looks more like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.
Dillard has a story to tell, the inner workings of a professional golfer trying to salvage a career, live out his dreams and paint his masterpiece at the most beautiful course in the world – Pebble Beach.
Just released in late May, Dillard’s book, “Six In A Row,” is a must read for the avid golfer. And the subtitle, “What The U.S. Open Taught Me about Golf, Faith and Purpose,” speaks of his personal transformation from a golf hustler to committed Christian and family man.
The only child of Don and Dixie Dillard, Andy grew up on the east side of Tyler and first noticed his gift for golf at the Putt-Putt course near his home. Later he was part of a dynamic junior golf program at the old Briarwood Country Club that was way ahead of its time. Probably a dozen of those junior golfers earned college scholarships in the late 1970s with Dillard, the Texas state junior champion at age 15, earning a full ride to Oklahoma State where he played on a national championship team with guys like Scott Verplank, Bob Tway and Willie Wood.
It was Verplank who planted the seed for Dillard’s comeback in 1992 after playing the tour a couple of years in the late 1980s but losing his “card,” or playing privileges on the all exempt PGA Tour. Verplank told Dillard during some pre-season training in January of 1992, in Palm Springs, that Andy had the best eye-to-hand coordination he had ever seen and just to trust in his ability to hit it where you are looking. Sounds simple, and sometimes it can be that way in the strange world of competitive golf.
Dillard’s book, released in time for the 2022 U.S. Open to be played at The Country Club near Boston, begins with the details of those six birdies in a row, still an Open record. Paired with fellow Texans Bob Estes and Tom Jenkins, Dillard left his birdie putt hanging on the lip of the cup on the iconic short par-3 7th hole to break his string that may never be repeated.
“Heck, I thought he was going to birdie every hole,” Jenkins told me later.
Dillard finished that first round with a 68 and in third place to first round leader Gil Morgan’s 66. After a second round 70, Dillard found himself in second place and in the final group with Morgan for Saturday’s third round. The remainder of the story I will leave to Dillard to tell as it is both riveting and revealing of the pressures of golf at the very highest level.
The beauty of his book is Dillard’s transparency as he describes the highs and lows of pursuing his dreams as a professional golfer. Not to spoil it for you, I will simply say there is redemption and there is transformation.
Six In A Row is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and other booksellers.