BAY HILL, Fla. – Robert Gamez grew up watching Arnold Palmer and other legends of the game.
In 1990 he won the tournament here, now named for him.
“To be able to come here and play and then obviously winning here was just very special for me,” Gamez, 50, said during a break in practice on a rainy Tuesday morning for the March 7-10 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Despite the cool conditions and the early drizzles, the fans were out in full force; getting autographs as they went from hole to hole was a big trend.
Gamez spoke about how it is great for the fans to be able to see Palmer’s achievements and always gets excited himself when he walks into the trophy case room.
“We walked in and just to see a lot of his little trophies and a lot of stuff that made Arnold who he was is always a great sight,” Gamez said. “I think it is going to be great for the fans to see.
“Anybody who comes to the tournament should try to walk through it and see what it is all about.”
The Las Vegas native gets a big following any time he is playing in Bay Hill; he has lots of family and friends in the area, lives close to the club and is a member.
“I had my best round here at the tournament in 10 years last year. The first day I shot even par, I birdied No.9. A lot of my friends were up in that tent and the applause was just unbelievable when it happened,” Gamez said.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy took to the green in the late morning to get
a feel for the course on which he rallied for a three-stroke victory over Bryson DeChambeau with a final-round 8-under-par 64. McIlroy will begin his title defence teeing off Thursday at 12:30 p.m
Fans followed McIlroy throughout the course watching the champion as he went through his paces after the rain had cleared up.
His championship win in Bay Hill last year was the 14th career PGA Tour trophy and the No.8 ranked Northern Ireland native will be looking for some fortune this week.
Tiger Woods announced he won’t be taking part in the tournament after dropping out last weekend due to a neck strain.