Winsted Native Bobby Gage Makes it onto the Champions Tour.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
In sports, as in life, sometimes perseverance is the most valuable attribute a person can possess.
Just ask Winsted native Bobby Gage. At the age of 51 the journeyman golfer is sitting atop of the world after gaining fully-exempt status on the Champions Tour by finishing third at this week’s Qualifying School tournament held at Walt Disney World’s Magnolia Course in Lake Buena Vista, Fl.
“If I had listened to some of the people along the way I would have quit golf a long time ago,” said Gage, who shot rounds of 71, 70, 69 and 67 to finish the tournament 11-under-par and two shots back of first place. The top five finishers earned fully-exempt status on the 2017
Champions Tour, which kicks off in late January. “I have told myself during my life to just stick with it and never quit. I love the game so much and have a passion for it. That has kept me going.”
Gage, a graduate of the Gilbert School where he played on the golf team, lived in Canton, Ma. this year while teaching the game at Blue Hill Country Club in Massachusetts and also at Candlewood Valley Country Club in New Milford, Ct. He played one year on the PGA Tour but lost his card.
He has played on several other professional tours through the years and also dabbled at various jobs in the golf industry, among them working at Green Woods Country Club in Winsted, before finding a niche as an instructor.
He played in 28 tournaments during his one season on the PGA Tour, recording one top 25 finish. He also played 143 events on the Web.com Tour, bagging one runner-up finish
An indication that Gage might be onto something this year was his 32nd place finish at July’s U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Oh. He went through qualifying to get into the prestigious United States Golf Association event, and shot rounds of 71, 71, 78 and 69 to finish with a 289 score.
“I guess my play at the U.S. Senior Open gave me some confidence going into the Qualifying School tournament,” Gage said. “I only played in three tournaments all summer and playing the U.S. Senior Open was a lot fun. I played well at a historic course and knew that I could hold my own against a top field on a tough golf course.”
Gage said he approached the Qualifying School tournament with a positive attitude, and he felt his game would hold up.
“I was playing well going into the tournament and I think a big plus mentally was knowing that I had a stable job back home (teaching golf) that I could return to in 2017 if things didn’t work out. That took some of the pressure off. I won’t say it was easy because it was brutally hard. But I just felt relaxed and played golf. I figured I would just let the chips fall where they would.”
And play golf he did.
He was steady through four rounds and then finished with a flourish in the final 18.
“I knew that nine under would get me into a playoff as I was finishing up, so I just put my head down and tried to hit good shots. I didn’t try and birdie the last three holes, it just happened.” As it turned out, the birdie on 17 assured there would be no playoff for Gage as it moved him to 10-under-par. The birdie on 18 was icing on the cake.
Gage was taking some time off before he makes up his schedule for 2017.
“I’m letting it all sink in and enjoying the moment. I’m playing a tournament in southern Florida that I go down to every year and then I will figure out things. I’m certainly going to play in as many tournaments as I can next year, and I will take the same approach as I have been taking; just keep my head down and do what I do and hope things go my way.”
The Champions Tour (for players 50 and over) kicks off Jan. 21 with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualulai, Hawaii. Local fans will have a chance to catch Gage when the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open is held July 8 through 10 in Endicott, N.Y.