His wife saw it, his caddy noticed it and so did his friends who followed Bob Bilbo around Congressional Country Club yesterday. Bilbo, a former steamfitter and sandlot baseball player who learned his golf on the Sligo and Glenn Dale public courses, in the Washington area, was terribly nervous.
The Montgomery Village club pro was ill at ease standing on the first tee at the $400,000 Kemper Open. "On a 1-to-10 scale (of nerves), he's usually a six," said his wife, Arline. "Today he's a 12."
"I tried to get him to stop talking about how nervous he was," said Ferman Simpson, his caddy.
"I talked to him on the practice green and he could hardly talk," said Bill Monteith, a Montgomery Village member.
"The first tee?" Bilbo said. "I think my knees were knocking. It must have sounded like two pieces of wood hitting together. That's how I felt."
Bilbo, a 36-year-old left-hander, once dreamed of being a major league baseball player.Ten years ago, he borrowed a relative's Christmas present and started hitting golf balls. Five Years ago, he quit is job as a journeyman steamfitter to become assistant golf pro at Greencastle Country Club.
"It was a thrill being out here just rubbing shoulders on the putting green with those (tour) guys," said Bilbo.
When he stepped to the first tee, he hit a hacker's drive, a push to the side of a fairway bunker, but a long push, leaving him just an eight-iron shot into the green on the 403-yard hole. That second shot was a skulled scorcher over the green. He made bogey.
Bilbo settled down on the next hole, a devilish, 215-yard par-3. He got out of a bunker and sank an eight-foot putt for par. He hit only four other poor shots the rest of the day, but three of them cost him bogeys, and he three-putted the final two greens for 76, six over par.
Two weeks ago, when he qualified for this tournament -- his first Tour event -- Bilbo said all he wanted to do was make the field, that he didn't care if he shot 90 the first day. Yesterday, however, after that 76, he cared.
"I really do," he said. "I played better than that . . . Now I want to make the cut. I can keep it around par I hit it long enough."
The reason he didn't shoot par yesterday provided an example of why some players on the tour make money and others struggle. Twice, Bilbo faced delicate chip shots, calling for the soft, cut shot that keeps a lot of tour regulars from starving.
"That's a new shot to me." Bilbo said. "I don't have that shot yet.These guys do that all the time. You don't have to in the Middle Atlantic pro-ams. These greens are like hitting it on this stuff here."
Bilbo then rapped his hand on a wooden bench in the locker room.
Until the final two holes, when he missed a two-footer and a six-footer, Bilbo had made all but one of his putts under 15 feet. But on three occasions when he had a good chance for birdie putts he appeared to pull the ball.
"I still don't know what I did wrong," Bilbo said. "The caddy told me he saw something. I'm going out there now to work on it."
Simpson, a veteran Congressional caddy who carried bags in both the 1964 U.S. Open and 1976 PGA championship here, said, "I couldn't get him to slow himself down, keep his head still. He was moving it back and forth."
Today, Bilbo will be the final player to tee off, with a 2:06 starting time. He will spend the morning at Montgomery Village, working on preparations for the annual Harden-Weaver charity tournament at his club and trying to keep his mind off the Kemper.
"Should be able to." he said. "I've got enough to do around the shop."
And, although he is unlikely to make a penny here, Bilbo is loving his new career.
"I've never had a job where I can't wait to get to work and hate to go home," he said.