Had somebody told you on Sunday that you could sec one of the leaders of the Bay Hill Invitational hanging around in the media tent before he teed off, you would have been hard-pressed to pick Paul Goydos out of the crowd. That's because Goydos looks more like a golf writer than a golfer. He was the somewhat overweight guy sitting over there in front of a computer, the fellow with the mustache and the goatee and the Hertz cap. You would never have dreamed that he was on the brink of the most important round of his career, the one that had been so long, and so hard, in coming that he had wondered many times if it would ever happen. No, you would have thought that he was the beat man for, perhaps, the Orlando Sentinel, getting ready to bat out some notes for the early edition.
None of the journalists paid him much heed because, strange as it may seem, Goydos has been hanging around the press tent ever since he came on the Tour in 1993. He reads the papers, checks his computer ranking, shoots the breeze about golf and life and whatever else happens to be on somebody's mind. "The media tent is the heartbeat of a golf tournament," Goydos said late Sunday after a final-round 67 gave him a one-shot win over Jeff Maggert and enabled him to appear before his hang-around guys for the first time as a winner. "It's a fun place to be. I've met a lot of neat guys who are writers, and a lot of them are pretty good friends of mine. It's good to hang out with your friends."
That sort of radical thinking has made Goydos the antithesis of, say, Vijay Singh, who blew off the writers, as is his custom, after playing his way into contention in Saturday's third round. It also made Goydos the perfect winner for Bay Hill, the classy tournament in Orlando that's Arnold Palmer's baby. Palmer, who made it a point to court the media throughout that nice little career of his, understood, better than anyone before or since, that golf needed all the exposure and publicity it could get. He made certain that any reporter who approached him never went away empty.
O.K., so maybe Palmer would have been happier if Goydos had followed the advice of his wife, Wendy, and gotten rid of the goatee. Like many men of his generation, Palmer, who will turn 67 in September, prefers the clean-shaven look. Yet he also had to be charmed and disarmed by this former substitute schoolteacher who, after Palmer helped him slip into the gray sport jacket emblematic of his new membership in the Bay Hill winners' club, had the grace to say, "I'm very lucky to be playing golf for a living. A lot of guys out here don't realize how lucky they are. It's the greatest job in the world."
So now Goydos will be known for something more than the important role he played in A Good Walk Spoiled, the best-selling book written by SI special contributor John Feinstein. He'll be known for the cool, almost eerie, way that he handled the pressure of being in contention on Sunday for the first time on the big Tour. Watching him hit one crisp and nerveless shot after another, you wouldn't have guessed that his last win had come on what was then called the Hogan tour, in the 1992 Yuma Open, or that his winner's check of $216,000 was seven times larger than his biggest payday since turning pro in '89. "He didn't look like a first-time winner," said Maggert, who was Goydos's playing partner. "He never got rattled. He holed out some nice 15-footers, 18-footers. Paul kept going forward, and he never let up. A 67 today was a great round."
Heading into the final round, Goydos was eight under par for the tournament and two shots behind the coleaders, Guy Boros and Patrick Burke, each of whom was also looking for his first Tour win. Either would have provided Goydos's pals in the media tent with a nice story. Boros's father, Julius, was one of Palmer's best friends and toughest rivals in the 1950s and '60s. Guy looks so much like his father, who died in '94, that when he came to do a TV interview with Arnie on Saturday, Palmer looked up and said, "Well, if it isn't Julius Boros."
And then there was Burke, whose long hair and full beard made Goydos look almost clean-cut in comparison. He also had his father in mind, and not only because Sunday was St. Patrick's Day, the day that Patrick was born in 1962. The last time his father, Mike, saw him play was at the '95 Bay Hill, when he fired a 66 in company with John Daly. Seven months later Mike died of a heart attack only three hours after a telephone conversation with Patrick.
"Let's just say it was very important for me to get here," said Burke, who employed his brother, Jim, as his caddie. "It brings back some good stuff. I think he [his father] enjoyed it more than I did that I played well. He saw one of the best rounds I ever played. It means a lot, anyway, just because it's Bay Hill and Arnold Palmer's tournament."
Since the first Bay Hill in 1979, the tournament has been a must stop, no excuses accepted, for everyone who's invited, because it's one small way to repay Palmer for his singular role in creating the worldwide interest in golf that, in turn, has led to today's huge paychecks. Even this year, when the oil sheiks in Dubai moved their European tour event to the same week as Bay Hill and threw huge appearance fees at some of the top American pros, everybody except Fred Couples remained true to Arnie, and Couples had no choice but to go to Dubai, considering that he was the defending champion there. As Burke—who was not invited to Dubai—put it, "A lot of dollars were being thrown around this week for guys to go overseas, but you see how many are here. It's respect for Mr. Palmer and respect for the course."
Unfortunately for the stargazers in the galleries, most of the big names didn't play much better than Mr. Palmer, who shot a creditable 75-74 to miss the cut by only three shots. The early departees included Greg Norman, last year's Player of the Year; Phil Mickelson, this year's leading money winner; Ben Crenshaw, who will defend his Masters title next month; and long-hitting Tim Herron, the surprise winner of the previous week's Honda Classic, who again did a great Daly impersonation ( Daly also missed the cut).