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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020 1 year ago

Brian Gay soaks up recent success

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The Windermere resident and PGA Tour golfer recently won the Bermuda Championship and recorded his 600th start in September.
by: Troy Herring Former Sports Editor

As Brian Gay approached the tee on the final hole at the Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda, he and his caddy had a short conversation about the moment.

The last leaderboard he had seen was on the 13th hole, which showed that he was in second place — three strokes behind Wyndham Clark — but the back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 had cut the lead to just one stroke, his caddy told him, despite Gay three-putting on 17 for a bogey.

From the tee, there was a crosswind blowing right to left and down, and Gay wanted to avoid the left, because it was a blind shot down a hill. So he decided to aim at the bunker and hit it hard, but he pushed it.

“I actually took a drop — I was standing on the (golf cart) path, which actually helped me, because I got to drop at the spot where the grass was a little tighter like the fairway,” Gay said. “Really, we were trying to figure out the yardage — it’s a significant amount uphill, probably 8 or 9 yards up the hill you can’t see the green itself … and from that angle, it was almost straight-down wind.”

After a discussion about whether to go with a pitching wedge or gap wedge, Gay landed with the latter. He made the right choice, as he chunked the ball with precision to within a foot of the hole — the broadcast caught Gay’s lone words of, “Go in the hole,” as the ball trickled close to the pin for what would end up being a tap-in for birdie.

With the shot, Gay forced a playoff after Clark missed on a 10-foot putt that would have won him the championship had he made it. Both ended regulation tied at 15 under par.

“Riding out to the 18th tee for the playoff, I said to my caddy, ‘Let’s go birdie this hole and get out of here,’” Gay said. “That was the mindset.”

Courtesy photo

On the playoff hole, Gay and Clark exchanged solid shots, and after Gay knocked in his putt for birdie, the unexpected happened. Clark missed his putt — handing Gay a one-stroke victory to claim his first win in seven years.

“It’s relief and it’s like, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ and, ‘Holy cow,’” Gay said. “Every time I’ve won, it’s always like, ‘How did this happen?’ (And) it’s always kind of a weird feeling, and it doesn’t happen very often except for Tiger.”

The win at Bermuda was Gay’s fourth overall PGA Tour win since he joined in 1999 — although he officially turned pro back in 1994. Those wins came at Mayakoba (2008), Verizon Heritage (2009) and Humana Challenge (2013).

Bermuda also served as Gay’s 602nd tour start, which came about two months after picking up his 600th start at the Safeway Open.

“I never really thought about it years ago,” Gay said. “All I ever wanted to do was play on the tour, and I was fortunate enough to get out there and stay out there for this amount of time. Over the course of my career, I think I was a slow learner, but it took me eight or nine (years) before I won my first one — 200-some starts before I won, and then I really took off for a couple of years.”

Gay’s time in the PGA has been filled with ups and downs, including neck and thumb surgeries in 2014 and 2015 that set him back. But now, the 49-year-old is looking to make the most out of this most recent win.

“I’m looking forward to Mexico and going back to Maui the first of January,” Gay said. “It’s always nice to get off to a good start early in the year — it’s a jumpstart on the season, and it can make a lot of good things happen from here.”

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Troy Herring was the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

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