Winning the $72,000 first prize was a foregone conclusion for Bob Gilder. His magnificent double-eagle at the 18th hole Saturday had given him a six-shot lead going into Sunday's final round of the $400,000 Westchester Classic. But this suspense remained: Would Gilder shoot the lowest four-round total in PGA Tour history?
"When I started the round," Gilder said, "I was comfortable, at ease. I wasn't nervous." Six-shot leads do that.
He parred the first four holes. Then he made birdie putts on the fifth, sixth and seventh, placing him at 21 under par for the tournament. Gilder, and many in the gallery, knew he needed to trim two more strokes from par to tie Mike Souchak's record of 257 set in the 1955 Texas Open.
"At that point," Gilder said, "I figured I could freewheel it on in."
Gilder did. But he never made another birdie. He bogeyed holes 15 and 18. And he finished with a one-under-par 69 over Westchester Country Club's 6,329-yard layout. Added to his first three rounds, 64, 63, 65, that gave him a Westchester tournament record 261 and a five-shot victory over Tom Kite and Peter Jacobsen. But not Souchak's record.
"I just didn't quite hit the ball like I did the last few days," Gilder said. "It's hard to follow that act. I'll take a 69, though. After No. 7, I was thinking about the record. I felt like if I just got that birdie (a seven-footer) at nine, then all I had to do was get one more on the back side. But I misread the putt.
"Records? Records are tough. I was still thinking about it but the putts had to fall. It just doesn't happen every day. I can't force it to happen. I can't make it happen. I had to shoot 64 to break the record. Geez, what did he do before that? (Souchak had 60, 68, 64, 65 on a par-72 course). That's still a heck of a score."
Gilder, 31, from Corvallis, Ore., parred his first five holes on the back side. But at No. 15, a 470-yard par-4, he missed the green to the right with a six-iron, chipped on and two-putted from 16 feet for bogey. At that point, Gilder said, he knew he couldn't break the record and his concentration was diverted to playing partners Kite and Jacobsen, contending for second-place money.
"It's hard," Gilder said, "when everybody--even myself--knew it was over. All I had to do was get in without falling over my feet. Peter and Tom had it going at each other and I just didn't want to get in their way."
Gilder parred 16 and 17. Kite birdied 16 and Jacobsen birdied 17. Coming to the 18th tee, Gilder led Kite by seven strokes and Jacobsen by six. Gilder hit his tee shot into the right-center of the fairway, about 25 yards short of where he had driven on Saturday. He had 251 yards left to the stick on Saturday, a three-wood to the green, and the ball rolled the last five feet into the hole for the double-eagle.
"I had 245 yards to the front of the green today," Gilder said. "I probably should have laid up."
Instead, he went for it with a three-wood and caught a trap far short of the green. Gilder blasted out to about 40 feet from the pin and three-putted for only his fifth bogey of the tournament.
"It really didn't matter," he said. "I was trying to put a number on it (the last hole) but it just didn't happen. I guess I was pretty high the first 15 holes. Then, all of a sudden, on the 16th, 17th and 18th I felt my cold caught up with me. My body started to drain a little bit. I got a little tired, but I think it was more emotional than physical."
Despite the letdown, Gilder still had the low four-round total on the 1982 tour. He led all the way to win his fourth tournament in seven years on tour, second this year. It raised his 1982 money-won total to $196,704. And, notably, Gilder's best previous finish here was a tie for 23rd and he broke 70 only twice in 20 previous rounds since winning the Byron Nelson Classic on May 2.
"I just got hot and made a lot of putts (21 birdies)," Gilder said. "I hit it as good as I can hit it. The cold kept me low key most of the week, so thanks for the cold."