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Bob Dickson Wins NFL Golf Classic

June 29, 1998

CLIFTON, N.J. (AP) _ How strange is golf?

Consider this. Bob Dickson ended a 25-year victory drought because he didn’t get a 50-foot birdie putt anywhere near the cup on the 17th hole Sunday in the Cadillac NFL Golf Classic.

Dickson won with a 20-foot birdie on the first hole of a playoff with Larry Nelson and Jim Colbert, who was seeking his first victory since undergoing cancer surgery last June.

However, the putt that Dickson won’t forget is the one on No. 17, a 215-yard, par 3 at the Upper Montclair Country Club.

Tied for the lead at 9-under with Colbert, Dickson hit his tee shot on the green, about 50 feet from the pin. When it was his turn, Dickson putted with his caddie, Brian Dease, standing right next to him.

The problem was the flag had been left unattended. If the ball had struck the flag stick, it would have been a two-shot penalty.

``I honestly did not see the flag stick in the hole, it’s in the shade back there,″ said Dickson, who wears glasses. ``All I saw was the cup and in my mind I was just trying to get it close. I wasn’t thinking of making it.″

Luckily, Dickson left the putt 5 feet short. He didn’t even notice the flag until Colbert pointed it out him when he went to mark his ball.

``That’s a first for me in 50 years of playing golf, nor will I ever do that again,″ Dickson said. ``My caddie and I both fell asleep at the switch.″

Dease took the blame for the mistake, saying it was his job to pull the pin. Ironically, he normally caddies for Vicente Fernandez, but he filled in this week for Dickson’s regular caddie, Mark Bolick, who was attending his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

``I’m going to take a lot of ribbing for that this week,″ Dease said.

Colbert said he saw Dickson’s mistake on No. 17 and he said he was going to pull the flag stick if the putt got close.

It’s a good thing that didn’t happen because Colbert would have been assessed a two-shot penalty because no one can touch the flag stick once the ball has been putted.

Dickson and Colbert both parred the final hole and Nelson forced his way into the playoff by making birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 18. Nelson’s chip for eagle on No. 18 was just short.

The playoff was played on the 590-yard 18th hole, with Nelson poised for his third win of the year when his wedge shot stopped 5 feet shy of the hole.

Colbert putted first and missed a downhill 25-footer. After Dickson made his putt, Nelson pushed his 5-footer right of the hole to give Dickson his first victory since the PGA Tour’s 1973 Andy Williams-San Diego Open.

Back then, Dickson was 29 and described winning as ``wild animal joy.″

``That wild animal joy is long in the tooth now,″ said the 54-year-old, whose eyes welled when he talked about winning again. ``To be honest, I didn’t feel like I would ever feel it again.″

Colbert, who has won 18 senior events, thinks he is on the verge of winning again after a battle with prostate cancer.

``Right now, I don’t feel real good,″ he said after his best finish of the year. ``But it felt great being in the hunt again.″

The playoff hole marked the end to a congested final round in which 10 players all hovered within two shots of the lead most of the day.

Dickson, who thought he needed a 65 to have a chance at winning, shot a 2-under-par 70 to match Colbert and Nelson at 9-under 209. Colbert and Nelson closed with 71s.

``I didn’t play that well,″ Nelson said. ``I thought someone was going to get to 10 under so I’m surprised I got in the playoff.″

Dana Quigley (68), J.C. Snead (68), defending champion Bruce Crampton (71) and Dave Stockton (71) missed the playoff by a stroke.

Divots: Arnold Palmer shot his second straight 1-under 71. He had gone 40 rounds without a sub-par round before breaking the streak Saturday. ``Yesterday and today were very encouraging,″ said Palmer, whose last consecutive sub-par rounds were at the Northville Long Island Classic in August. ``These rounds will keep me going.″ He opened with a 75. ... Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer successfully defended his title in the NFL players competition Saturday, beating Baltimore tight end Brian Kinchen with a birdie on the first playoff hole. They shot 76s.

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