Talk about a rude houseguest.
Senior Tour rookie Bob Gilder overcame brutal final-round conditions at the Senior Tour Championship Oct. 28 to edge his weeklong host Doug Tewell by a single shot at Gaillardia Golf & Country Club.
Playing on a day featuring sustained winds of 25-35 mph, Gilder struggled to a final-round 73 but finished with an 11-under-par 277, one better than Tewell, who shot 69–278. Third-round leader Bruce Lietzke (76) finished at 279.
Gilder earned $440,000, easily the largest check of his professional career, and likely wrapped up Senior rookie of the year honors. It was Gilder’s second victory of 2001. He won the Verizon Classic Feb. 18 in his third senior start.
“We don’t have wind like this in Oregon,” the Corvallis native said. “I try to avoid this stuff if I can.”
He became the first player since Bruce Fleisher in 1999 to win with a final-round score over par. Sunday’s scoring average was 75.16.
Tewell, a nearby Edmond native who called the wind Category 5 by Oklahoma standards, gave Gilder a preview of what to expect when he drove him out for a Monday practice round a few weeks ago after The Transamerica. The players took one look at the windy conditions and decided to forgo their friendly round on their day off.
Gilder, however, said he was not worried about taking the title from his good friend and host.
“I can handle Doug, we’ll probably party tonight (Sunday),” Gilder said.
Gilder started the day one shot behind fellow senior rookie Lietzke, but Lietzke admitted he was never comfortable in the gusty conditions.
Lietzke bogeyed two of his first four holes and fell out of the hunt with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 as Gilder turned in birdies there.
“A couple of times I would have whiffed the ball if I hadn’t backed off my putts,” said Lietzke, who uses a long putter. “I was just looking for a lull in the wind.”
But there was little lull at all.
Tewell, who finished with the only sub-70 score among the leaders, birdied the last hole from 31⁄2 feet after narrowly missing his eagle effort. (Leonard Thompson was the only other player to break 70. He shot 5-under 67 to finish 14th.)
“The day I lost this tournament was on Friday when we had calm conditions,” Tewell said. “I just got too far behind for the final round.”
Tewell started the day seven shots behind Lietzke, six back of Gilder, and had closed the gap to two shots when he finished.
After a bogey on the par-4 17th, Gilder led Lietzke by two shots and Tewell by one. Gilder and Lietzke parred the 18th hole.
Lietzke’s eagle putt from 20 feet rolled 3 feet past the cup, then he missed his comeback putt that would have tied Tewell.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to this event next year with a bit of revenge on my mind,” Lietzke said.
Defending champion Tom Watson finished fourth with a final-round 71 for a 6-under 282.
Allen Doyle, who finished 22nd, captured the seasonlong Charles Schwab Cup and its $1 million annuity, which he donated to charity. Doyle also won the season money title with $2,553,582, edging Bruce Fleisher, who won $2,411,543 this year.
– Art Stricklin is a free-lance writer from Plano, Texas