Robert Gamez will forever live in the annals of the Bay Hill history books after delivering his killer blow to Greg Norman 30 years ago
Greg Norman knew a thing or two about being stung by a spectacular shot – Bob Tway’s holed bunker shot at the 1986 PGA and Larry Mize’s chip-in at the 87 Masters are the obvious ones – but never from 176 yards out.
Robert Gamez, a 21-year-old rookie who had won the second event on the 1990 calendar, stood one behind Norman and Mize and in the middle of the 18th fairway.
With Mize down the right he was going to hit a 6-iron but the longer the wait went on and with the adrenaline pumping he opted for the 7.
“When it was in the air, I thought ‘this is going to be close,” Gamez said. “When the ball went in, I was relieved the round was over, that I didn’t have to make a putt for birdie!’”
He was round in 66 which left Norman, who heard the roars while stood on the 17th tee, needing a birdie at one of the last two holes to match Gamez. The Aussie saw putts of 10 and 15 feet slide by and the title was the rookie’s.
The 18th hole, known as the Devil’s Bathtub, played as the hardest hole, 4.559, on the PGA Tour the previous year.
As for Norman he said: “With a roar like that, you knew somebody holed a shot, but we didn’t know who. Then we heard over the walkie-talkie that Gamez had made it. What can you say, you try your best and that’s all you can do.
“I still haven’t seen Gamez swing a club but if he can hole a shot like that, I guess he can play.”
Gamez, who had to wait 15 years for his third and final win on the PGA Tour, became a member at Bay Hill later in his career.
“Going out and playing the shootouts, the game they had every day, and being around the guys, he (Palmer) would be in there, even when he was struggling with his shoulder and couldn’t play any any more, but he would be in there after the game was over, come in, have a drink with all the guys and sit there.
“And even if I didn’t play in it and I just walked through he would give you that little thumbs up and that smile and you knew that you were one of his guys and his buddies and it just made you feel good when you saw that out of him.”
As always Gamez is in this week’s field – he last made the cut in 2008.