ORLANDO, Fla. – Robert Gamez had and will have many better days on the golf course than he did on Friday.
The 20-over-92-Gamez shot in the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, to finish 27-over and DFL through 36 holes was certainly a shock to his system.
But Gamez, who chose not to sign his card to publicly release the score and was officially disqualified as a result, treated her with grace and class. He was still smiling as he stepped off the 18th green, where he had the greatest golfing moment of his life 32 years ago.
If you’ve watched the tournament on TV for the past two days and wondered why one 52-year-old journeyman with three career PGA Tour victories (the last in 2005) was on the field, then it’s because this shines moment.
In 1990, as a 21-year-old on the Road to PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Gamez threw a 7-iron for the Eagle at 176 yards on the 72nd hole to win the tournament, then named it the Nestle Invitational. He ousted Greg Norman and Larry Mize, who had a one-shot lead at the time.
The TV highlight of the recording aired at least three times this week on Golf Channel and NBC shows – like every year during Arnold Palmer Week.
The legendary shot has become part of Bay Hill tournament history. A plaque to commemorate this is located on Fairway # 18, the hole the club calls « Devil’s Bathtub » for the lake that protects the green.
This week was the 32nd year in a row that Gamez had played Played the tournament founded by Palmer and named after him, with which he was friends – especially after he and his wife moved to Bay Hill in the early 2000s and joined the club.
From those participating years, Gamez kept the streak of the game despite a serious car accident in which he was hospitalized for a week in 1998, and despite having quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2014.
Gamez hasn’t made a cut in Bay Hill since 2008. In fact, he missed the cut 24 times. Regardless of how he played in any given year, Gamez, as a former champion, always knew he would be invited back next year.
On Monday, the PGA Tour and its Player Council voted in favor of the auto-invite rule of previous champions. Gamez said he found out about it by email on Tuesday while he was playing a practice round. « I think Arnold would roll over in his grave if he knew, » Gamez told the Post after his round Friday .
Every tournament should invite its previous champions into the field. It’s one of the elements that make the Masters as special as they are.
« That’s disappointing, » Gamez said. « I am not taking a seat from anyone because it is a 120-man invitation field. If I were to take a seat from someone, I would think about stepping down and letting someone else play. I have a story for this event. It are 32 direct events for me. And sadly, I think it’s going to end. «
Gamez said that rarely a day goes by without being asked about his 1990 winning shot.
» The People ask me about it all the time, « he said. “It’s one of those recordings that is in the history books.”
It’s also a recording with a wonderful backstory. He was paired with Mize, who hit his tee shot into the right rough and took a long time on his second shot. « It was just a crazy thing, » recalled Gamez. “I wanted to cut a little 6-iron there, but the longer [Mize] it took, the more nervous I got. And when you’re nervous you don’t want to swing softly so I went for a hard 7 and tried to draw it. I knew it was going to be tight because it was exactly what I had in mind. You never think it’ll go in. «
» I would love to play next year, « said Gamez. » I hope that somehow they realize what they are doing. They’d hope they check it out and say these guys [former champions] deserve to be here. Mr. Palmer would want it. «
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