Publish date:


HAD SOMEBODY told you on Sunday that you could see one of the
leaders of the Bay Hill Invitational hanging around in the media
tent before he teed off, you would have been hard-pressed to
pick Paul Goydos out of the crowd. That's because Goydos looks
more like a golf writer than a golfer. He was the somewhat
overweight guy sitting over there in front of a computer, the
fellow with the mustache and the goatee and the Hertz cap. You
would never have dreamed that he was on the brink of the most
important round of his career, the one that had been so long,
and so hard, in coming that he had wondered many times if it
would ever happen. No, you would have thought that he was the
beat man for, perhaps, the Orlando Sentinel, getting ready to
bat out some notes for the early edition.

None of the journalists paid him much heed because, strange as
it may seem, Goydos has been hanging around the press tent ever
since he came on the Tour in 1993. He reads the papers, checks
his computer ranking, shoots the breeze about golf and life and
whatever else happens to be on somebody's mind. "The media tent
is the heartbeat of a golf tournament," Goydos said late Sunday
after a final-round 67 gave him a one-shot win over Jeff Maggert
and enabled him to appear before his hang-around guys for the
first time as a winner. "It's a fun place to be. I've met a lot
of neat guys who are writers, and a lot of them are pretty good
friends of mine. It's good to hang out with your friends."

That sort of radical thinking has made Goydos the antithesis of,
say, Vijay Singh, who blew off the writers, as is his custom,
after playing his way into contention in Saturday's third round.
It also made Goydos the perfect winner for Bay Hill, the classy
tournament in Orlando that's Arnold Palmer's baby. Palmer, who
made it a point to court the media throughout that nice little
career of his, understood, better than anyone before or since,
that golf needed all the exposure and publicity it could get. He
made certain that any reporter who approached him never went
away empty.

O.K., so maybe Palmer would have been happier if Goydos had
followed the advice of his wife, Wendy, and gotten rid of the
goatee. Like many men of his generation, Palmer, who will turn
67 in September, prefers the clean-shaven look. Yet he also had
to be charmed and disarmed by this former substitute
schoolteacher who, after Palmer helped him slip into the gray
sport jacket emblematic of his new membership in the Bay Hill
winners' club, had the grace to say, "I'm very lucky to be
playing golf for a living. A lot of guys out here don't realize
how lucky they are. It's the greatest job in the world."

So now Goydos will be known for something more than the
important role he played in A Good Walk Spoiled, the
best-selling book written by SI special contributor John
Feinstein. He'll be known for the cool, almost eerie, way that
he handled the pressure of being in contention on Sunday for the
first time on the big Tour. Watching him hit one crisp and
nerveless shot after another, you wouldn't have guessed that his
last win had come on what was then called the Hogan tour, in the
1992 Yuma Open, or that his winner's check of $216,000 was seven
times larger than his biggest payday since turning pro in '89.
"He didn't look like a first-time winner," said Maggert, who was
Goydos's playing partner. "He never got rattled. He holed out
some nice 15-footers, 18-footers. Paul kept going forward, and
he never let up. A 67 today was a great round."

Heading into the final round, Goydos was eight under par for the
tournament and two shots behind the coleaders, Guy Boros and
Patrick Burke, each of whom was also looking for his first Tour
win. Either would have provided Goydos's pals in the media tent
with a nice story. Boros's father, Julius, was one of Palmer's
best friends and toughest rivals in the 1950s and '60s. Guy
looks so much like his father, who died in '94, that when he
came to do a TV interview with Arnie on Saturday, Palmer looked
up and said, "Well, if it isn't Julius Boros."

And then there was Burke, whose long hair and full beard made
Goydos look almost clean-cut in comparison. He also had his
father in mind, and not only because Sunday was St. Patrick's
Day, the day that Patrick was born in 1962. The last time his
father, Mike, saw him play was at the '95 Bay Hill, when he
fired a 66 in company with John Daly. Seven months later Mike
died of a heart attack only three hours after a telephone
conversation with Patrick.

"Let's just say it was very important for me to get here," said
Burke, who employed his brother, Jim, as his caddie. "It brings
back some good stuff. I think he [his father] enjoyed it more
than I did that I played well. He saw one of the best rounds I
ever played. It means a lot, anyway, just because it's Bay Hill
and Arnold Palmer's tournament."

Since the first Bay Hill in 1979, the tournament has been a must
stop, no excuses accepted, for everyone who's invited, because
it's one small way to repay Palmer for his singular role in
creating the worldwide interest in golf that, in turn, has led
to today's huge paychecks. Even this year, when the oil sheiks
in Dubai moved their European tour event to the same week as Bay
Hill and threw huge appearance fees at some of the top American
pros, everybody except Fred Couples remained true to Arnie, and
Couples had no choice but to go to Dubai, considering that he
was the defending champion there. As Burke--who was not invited
to Dubai--put it, "A lot of dollars were being thrown around this
week for guys to go overseas, but you see how many are here.
It's respect for Mr. Palmer and respect for the course."

Unfortunately for the stargazers in the galleries, most of the
big names didn't play much better than Mr. Palmer, who shot a
creditable 75-74 to miss the cut by only three shots. The early
departees included Greg Norman, last year's Player of the Year;
Phil Mickelson, this year's leading money winner; Ben Crenshaw,
who will defend his Masters title next month; and long-hitting
Tim Herron, the surprise winner of the previous week's Honda
Classic, who again did a great Daly impersonation (Daly also
missed the cut).

Although the leader boards on the weekend might not have been
exactly what NBC wanted to go head-to-head against the NCAA
basketball tournament, the golf was worthy of Palmer and Bay
Hill. Only on Saturday, when the wind was virtually nonexistent,
did the players get the better of the long (7,196-yard),
hazard-laden course. Teeing off early, Curt Byrum let everyone
know that the course was vulnerable, shooting a 64 that was the
week's low round. By day's end Boros and Burke shared the lead
at 10 under, which was especially nice for both because of their
off-the-course friendship. "[Boros] is a good guy," said Burke.
"He was the first person to come up and talk to me about my dad."

But on Sunday, to nobody's great surprise, Boros and Burke
proved they weren't yet ready to win, both ballooning to 75 to
finish in a tie for 13th. Their demise served mainly to open the
way for Goydos, who moved into a tie for the lead with a birdie
on number 5. After taking the lead with another birdie, at the
par-5 12th, Goydos withstood challenges from the likes of
Maggert, Tom Purtzer, Corey Pavin, Mark Calcavecchia and Mark

On the last three holes, which Goydos called "the H20 holes"
because water comes into play on each, he wisely protected his
lead instead of doing something stupid. He finally was ready to
win, and a big reason was a new mental approach. It was Burke,
according to Feinstein's book, who once told Goydos to quit
being so hard on himself. Or, as Burke put it, "have some cheese
with all that whine."

On Sunday, Goydos had the cheese. After closing out the field
with efficient pars on the water holes (a par-5, a 3 and a 4),
Goydos met Palmer in the cottage beside the 18th green and
immediately lined up a practice round before the Masters, where
he'll be playing for the first time. "This is Arnold Palmer's
tournament," Goydos said reverentially. "That says it all right
there." Then, in the media tent, he further endeared himself to
his buddies, but hardly surprised them, by bringing perspective
to his big moment. "I'm kind of numb right now," he said. "I
just wish my family could have been here. I know Wendy's elated,
but deep down she's also upset that she wasn't here. After all,
she's been there all the time."

All the time when Goydos was struggling to make it through
qualifying school and the Nike tour. All the time when they
toured the country gypsy-style, living out of their Blazer. All
the time when Goydos saw younger players moving past him on the
way up. All the time when he searched his soul, wondering if he
should quit and get a real job so he could provide some
stability for their daughters, Chelsea, 5, and Courtney, 3. And
all the time, doing more than her part, whether it was teaching
kindergarten or caddying for Paul when he couldn't afford
anybody else.

Yeah, it's a crying shame that Wendy wasn't there to see Paul
striding onto the final green, the cheers and whistles from the
gallery washing over him. She'll just have to settle for reading
about it. The working stiffs in the press tent were eager to do
right by their favorite hang-around guy. The goatee
notwithstanding, Goydos is, after all, a splendid heir to Mr.
Palmer's legacy.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISINGoydos sealed his first Tour victory with a 67 and steady, intelligent play down the stretch on Sunday. [Paul Goydos]

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Pavin (above) challenged Goydos during the final round, as did the stylish Purtzer--until his putter turned sour in the late going. [Corey Pavin; Tom Purtzer]

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Burke was hoping for a birthday triumph in his father's memory, but it was Goydos who received the mantle of victory from Palmer. [Patrick Burke]

COLOR PHOTO: HANS DERYK/AP PHOTO [See caption above--Paul Goydos putting on jacket with help from Arnold Palmer]