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Gilbert Finds Cure at Wilshire : Senior golf: He shoots 65 for three-shot lead over Colbert and Stockton. Miller Barber wins over-60 competition.

October 22, 1995|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Larry Gilbert was sick Wednesday. He was sick again Friday night. On Saturday at Wilshire Country Club, Gilbert shot a six-under-par 65 and took a three-shot lead into the final round of Ralphs Senior Classic.

If he felt any worse, Gilbert probably would be knocking birdies into the hole from the back door of an ambulance.

"He's not sick anymore," Jim Colbert said.

There is a $120,000 first prize on the line today in an $800,000 tournament, which is part of a $33-million tour.

All you need to know about the wealth available on the Senior PGA Tour is that the leader at Wilshire was born in Fort Knox.

That would be Gilbert, 52, a longtime Kentucky club pro, who wasn't born with a silver pitching wedge in his mouth and didn't earn a dime on the PGA Tour, but has banked nearly $1.8 million in three years playing among the seniors.

Gilbert had four birdies on the back, finished his second day without a bogey and generally felt a whole lot better about life in general.

"I guess I'm so doggone weak, I can't swing at it hard," said Gilbert, who is at 10-under 132. "I can't be too quick with the swing."

It's doggone bad when that happens, all right. Colbert and Dave Stockton find themselves three shots behind Gilbert as the last round begins today.

Colbert had a 70 and Stockton a 67. The healthiest things about them may be their bank accounts. Stockton is the leading money winner on tour with $1.2 million and Colbert is fourth with $1.1 million.

This means that there could be some serious dollars at stake today as the tour's money race winds down.

Stockton is a two-time winner of the Arnold Palmer trophy, awarded to the Tour's leading money winner. Looking for a third, he birdied the last three holes, a flurry that included a 30-foot putt on the 18th.

Afterward, he had a good-natured barb for Colbert.

"I can tell him the Palmer trophy looks really good in the bookcase," Stockton said.

Colbert laughed when told what Stockton said.

"I'm sure it does," he said. "His bookcase ought to be full right now."

Kermit Zarley, Chi Chi Rodriguez, John Bland and Terry Dill are four shots off the lead at 136 and three others are tied at 137, Bruce Devlin, Rives McBee and Bud Allin.

Miller Barber, 64, shot 68 and won the competition between the players older than 60 with a 36-hole score of 138. That's six shots behind Gilbert, which puts Barber in contention for a run at the title, at least mathematically.

Jimmy Powell's victory in July at Grand Rapids made him the only golfer older than 60 to win a Senior PGA Tour event.

Barber wonders if it could happen again.

"I hope so," he said. "We're not all dead yet.

"One of us may get up there and three or four fall dead, like Southern Cal did today at Notre Dame. Who knows?"

Anything may be possible at Wilshire, where 42 in the field of 78 are at par or better after 36 holes. Gilbert's 65 was the top score of the day, but Colbert said something a lot lower than that is possible.

"You can shoot 10 under par here if you really get it smoking," he said. "But you've got to get it smoking."

When Gilbert gets it smoking, he lights up a cigar. Sometimes it's a golf course. On Saturday, it was both.

Gilbert knew it was his day on No. 10 when he had a 12-footer, hit the putt, then watched the ball somehow roll right into the hole for a birdie. He was glad, he just didn't think it would.

"I was just trying to get it close and it went in," he said. "I was really surprised."

Colbert's only bogey came when he hit two trees on No. 6. Stockton had only one bogey, when he three-putted No. 9.

By comparison, Gilbert was bogey-free, but Colbert said it would be wrong to make too short a list of potential winners.

"There are more than three of us that can win this tournament, I'll tell you that," he said.

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