BAY HILL, Fla. – Nearly three decades after making one of the most famous shots in Bay Hill Club history, Robert Gamez relishes the opportunity to play in the tournament that has defined his career.
As a rookie in the 1990 PGA season, the Nevada born Gamez won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, then called the Nestle Invitational, by draining an eagle from the fairway on the 18th hole to beat World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman by one stroke.
The victory was special for the three-time Tour winner, who has made it a point to play in the tournament 30 consecutive times.
“Well obviously being a rookie that year and to be able to come here and play and then obviously winning here was just very special for me,” Gamez said, in a press conference at Bay Hill on Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t want to miss this event. I’m 50 now … but I’m always going to play here, I just love it.”
Gamez’s victory at Bay Hill and a previous win at the Tucson Open in his first career start earned him the PGA Tour’s inaugural Rookie of the Year award. The 30-year veteran believes that the newly renamed “Arnold Palmer Award” for top newcomer will be appreciated by the entire golf community.
“What Mr. Palmer did for all the young guys out here and the way he took us under his wing a little bit … to watch the way he handled himself on and off the golf course was just amazing,” said Gamez, at a press conference during the Tuesday practice round.
“And I think [the young guys that win the award] really appreciate it and I think it’s going to be a great thing for the award and for the Tour.”
As for this year’s event, Gamez, who has a plaque on the 18th fairway commemorating his miraculous shot, (and married his wife Denise in a friend’s backyard overlooking that fairway) is looking to soak in the experience of his 30th start with his friends and family.
“It’s nice to have the following I have here. And who knows what’s going to happen on Thursday, but I know I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”