Robert Gamez insists he has no expectations now that he’s eligible for the PGA Tour Champions.
The way his PGA Tour career started 28 years ago, it would be tough to top.
Gamez, who celebrated his 50th birthday July 21 by hitting the first practice shot for the Senior British Open at St. Andrews, arrived on tour with authority. He won the 1990 Tucson Open, the first event he played as a pro. Eleven weeks later, he won the Nestlé Invitational at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill when he holed a 7-iron from the 18th fairway for eagle to defeat Greg Norman by one stroke.
“I still get asked about that shot,” Gamez said Wednesday. “It got me famous.”
The success, though, didn’t last. Gamez didn’t win another tournament on the PGA Tour until 2005 — a tour record for length of time between titles. He’s battled a host of injuries, including a quadruple bypass in 2014 that has limited movement in his neck and back, which hampers his length off the tee.
He bounced around on the Web.com tour the past few years and feels energized by a fresh start.
“I’ve been around kids hitting it by me 100 yards and they’re using hybrids,” Gamez said. “It feels good to be out here, the first time I’ve really played in three or four months.”
Gamez made $8.6 million in his PGA Tour career. For now, he is only entered in PGA Tour Champions events by a sponsor’s exemption as he is this week at the 3M Championship.
He’s written letters to tournament organizers of every event left on the schedule but so far is only entered in one more, September’s Ally Challenge in Michigan.
Gamez has played in a 3M pro-am three consecutive days and has another tee time scheduled Thursday. Putting, he said, is close to coming around but it’s going to take more than just close to have any kind of success here. The 54-hole winning score has been 18 under or lower four years running.
“These guys are good out here,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll come out right away and dominate. I know better.”
More than Great
Nine-time major champion Gary Player entered this event twice, in 1993-94, and has been a staple in the 3M Championship Greats of Golf event. On Thursday, the 82-year-old will appear in the pro-am. He’s scheduled to tee off at 8:20 a.m. on hole No. 10.
Player still will appear in Saturday’s Greats of Golf exhibition, playing in a group with Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino.
Barring further withdrawals — 11 players have backed out since Monday — the 3M field is set. Brian Henninger, Keith Clearwater, John Inman and Peter Lonard were all added Wednesday.
Come see ’em
Former 3M Championship winners Kenny Perry, Jay Haas and Paul Goydos (the defending champion) highlight Friday’s Round 1 tee times. That group tees off No. 1 at noon. Groups including John Daly (11:40 a.m.) and Tom Lehman (11:50 a.m.) precede that start.