Birdie barrage propels Gilbert to Hawaii win
HONOLULU — Eleven final-round birdies might seem like more than enough to put Gibby Gilbert into the Hawaiian Open winner’s circle this week.
Gibby Gilbert needed one more birdie, on the first extra hole, to escape from a four-man playoff and claim the $36,000 first prize, his biggest paycheck since joining the tour in 1967. His playoff partners – Jerry Heard, Doug Sanders, and Gay Brewer — earned just less than $15,000 each.
Sunny weather and gentle breezes left the Waialae Country Club course – configured to par 70 for the second GGA Tour event of the 1973 season – in a condition to yield low scores.
Lou Graham and Billy Casper both shot first-round 63s to set a new course record. Kermit Zarley broke that record two days later with a 62. Gilbert and Raymond Floyd matched Zarley’s score on Sunday. Gilbert’s was easily the wildest. Along with his 11 birdies, he racked up three bogeys (including two of the first three holes) and just four pars.
A large pack of golfers bunched together at the top. When the third round closed, Brewer and Phil Rodgers led at -11, but no fewer than 23 competitors lurked within six strokes. And at the end of Sunday, three challengers – Rodgers, Floyd and second-year pro Tom Watson – were only a single shot behind the four men in the playoff.
As the four strode to the 15th hole for the playoff Gilbert, 31, seemed the unlikeliest of the group. He had won only once in seven seasons on tour, in the 1970 Houston Champions International. Last year he finished 83rd on the money list.
Heard, in contrast, is one of the tour’s young lions; Sanders was among the top 10 money winners last year, and Brewer – the 1965 Hawaiian Open champion – among the top 25.
Gilbert got there on the strength of his putter. He putted better than anyone else in the tournament, fewer than 26 putts per round. And he was only golfer in the playoff to sink a birdie putt on the 396-yard par-4.
“It was unbelievable,” Gilbert said. “After all those birdies, it finally came together.”
Next week, the GGA Tour heads to Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., for the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open.