Fifteen Years Later, Gilder Still Has a Shot
Bob Gilder was lounging in the locker room at the Westchester Country Club last Friday when he was asked about one of the most dramatic shots in Tour history. Fifteen years ago, during the third round of the Westchester Classic, Gilder had driven into the fairway and was 251 yards from the hole on the 509-yard, par-5 18th. He was 15 under par and led the tournament by three strokes.
Gilder took a ferocious swing with his three-wood, and his ball flew 240 yards, landed on the fringe and took three bounces before rolling into the cup for a double-eagle, one of the rarest shots in golf. (Last year there was only one on Tour, by Guy Hill at the Canadian Open.) As Gilder pumped his fists, CBS's Ken Venturi, in the TV tower behind the green, yelled, "Absolutely phenomenal. You've witnessed something that you'll probably never see again." Gilder shot 65 that day, 69 the next and won by five shots. His 19-under 261 is the lowest winning score—by seven strokes—in the event's 31-year history.
A middle-aged man, evidently a club member, came up to Gilder while he recounted the story last week, and he said, "Bob, I've been trying to hit that shot for 15 years and haven't come close."
"Neither have I," said Gilder.
Gilder, 46, hasn't done anything to cheer about lately. He lost his Tour card two years ago, didn't get it back last year and this season is playing mainly on the Nike tour. (Westchester was one of only four regular Tour events on his '97 schedule.) Gilder won six times and earned more than $2.7 million during his 21-year Tour career but has struggled in the minors. Battling the yips, he's 36th on the Nike money list.
Gilder's career headed south shortly after his three-victory season in '82, when he was sixth on the money list. In 1983 he won for the last time, at the Phoenix Open, and began to tinker with his swing. He was also an outspoken, and fined, critic of Tour commissioner Deane Beman. Later, Gilder sided with Karsten Manufacturing in its square-grooves lawsuit against the Tour and was ostracized by most of his peers.
But Gilder wants to put his controversial past behind him. He finished 27th last week and headed back to the Nike tour confident about his future. "I used to vent my frustrations on others," he says. "Over time, though, I've learned that there's nobody to blame but yourself. This is a performance-oriented tour. If you don't perform, you don't belong. I know I'll be back because I can still perform."
A Triple Play for Spain In the Ryder Cup?
In January things looked grim for Spanish golf fans. Seve Ballesteros remained in a slump, José Maria Olazábal was laid up with a severe foot ailment, and no other Spaniard vas among the top 10 on Europe's Ryder Cup points list. Would Spain host its first Ryder Cup, in September at Valderrama, without a native in the competition?