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March 5, 2019

Robert Gamez

Orlando, Florida

MARK WILLIAMS: We would like to welcome Robert Gamez to the interview room here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. You have a lot of history here, just looking up your stats you haven't missed this tournament since you won it in 1990 and this will be your 30th start. Can you just talk about that first victory and the legacy of this tournament and what it means to you.

ROBERT GAMEZ: Well obviously being a rookie that year and winning in Tucson got me into the Nestle Invitational back then, the Arnold Palmer Invitational now, and to be able to come here and play and then obviously winning here was just a very special for me. I grew up watching Mr. Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and all those guys, but as a kid on the putting green you're putting to win a golf tournament, you're always having that one putt, you always be like, I beat Arnold or Trevino or Nicklaus, depending upon who my friends wanted to be. So to be here and do that was just very special for me and then to get to really meet him and get to know him a little bit over the years was fantastic. I don't want to miss this event. I'm 50 now, so it was tough to pass up going out, trying to go out to California and play, but I'm always going to play here, I just love it.

MARK WILLIAMS: Talking about that. You played a handful, maybe seven or eight Champions Tour events. Obviously last week you played in the Cologuard Classic on the PGA Tour Champions and you had your best finish.

ROBERT GAMEZ: I did that was my best finish of the eight events I played so far.

MARK WILLIAMS: Congrats on that. Secondly, I wanted to talk on the announcement earlier about the Rookie of the Year Award becoming the Arnold Palmer Award and you were the inaugural winner of the Rookie of the Year award, which is now the Arnold Palmer Award, just some thoughts on that and the trophy being renamed and how meaningful winning that award was to you.

ROBERT GAMEZ: Any time you get an award out here on the PGA TOUR you've done something and it definitely, to win the Rookie of the Year, which I didn't realize it was the first one, but it's very, it was very special and always is. To be able to have that, along with this win, which gets me in for life out here at this event, is just very special. And I think renaming it to the Arnold Palmer Award I think the young guys that win the Rookie of the Year award are going to really appreciate it as well. Because what Mr. Palmer did for all the young guys out here and the way he took us under his wing a little bit, because after being out here and watching over the years and he was one of the guys that I looked up to, especially when I first started, and to watch the way he handled himself on and off the golf course was just amazing. And I think the young guys that win the award and have gotten to know him before his passing I think they really appreciate it and I think it's going to be a great thing for the award and for the TOUR.

MARK WILLIAMS: Terrific. Any questions, please raise your hand.

Q. How many people are going to come out -- you live here, right?
ROBERT GAMEZ: I do live here.

Q. A bunch of people coming out to watch you?
ROBERT GAMEZ: I do have a bit of a following. I'm also a member here at Bay Hill. So, last year was, it was fun on Thursday, they had a little members tent up here to the right of No. 9 and I had my best round here at the tournament in 10 years last year, the first day I shot even par, I birdied No. 9. And a lot of my friends were up in that tent and the applause was just unbelievable when it happened. So it's nice to have the following I have here. And who knows what's going to happen on Thursday, but I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.

Q. How rejuvenated does the Champions Tour, you hear these stories from guys all the time like they're counting the days to count to that point.
ROBERT GAMEZ: I've been trying to get there for five years now and finally got there last summer. I played seven times, my first start was the Senior Open at St. Andrews and I didn't putt very well and which is has been my Achilles Heel over my career, that's my putting, so I didn't putt very well at the end of the year either. I hit it really well, I've been working really hard, I worked with Jan Stephenson in November, she's been a great short game person, a great putter her whole career and she plays in my charity golf tournament here in town and we were talking after the golf on, after the tournament, and she goes, you need to come down and work with me. And I went down and worked and I'm starting to really roll the ball on my line, which is the one thing I've always struggled with. So last week was better, I hit the ball pretty well, I putted really well just the greens were -- for me, I played college golf in Tucson, so we got to play Tucson National every Monday -- and I was so used to the greens being a little bit quicker and I struggled because they were just a little bit inconsistent and I kept coming up short. But my ball started on line, which was fun, and I'm looking to forward to this week because that, knowing the golf course the way I do it should be a lot of fun. Yes, it plays longer to me, which is why I enjoy playing out on the Champions Tour, playing golf courses that are about 7,000, instead of 7,500, and it's just, it's nice having scoring clubs in out there. But I'm looking forward to this week and looking forward to the rest of my career.

Q. You mentioned it before that Bay Hill and this area is your home. How special is this tournament knowing that you are home, it's an easy drive down the street, and then in addition, what advice can you give some of the players, like Keith who was here a little while ago, about this course. We all remember your shot on 18. You know this course well, what advice can you give them?
ROBERT GAMEZ: Well, obviously from what I hear -- and I haven't, I haven't played here in three weeks about three weeks -- so I hear the rough is up pretty good, pretty high. I have some friends that played last week and he had trouble getting out of the rough. Now he's a 10 handicap, but still. I think the key to around this place is keeping the ball in play. I know with the rain we had today it's going to make the golf course a little bit softer, going to make that rough a little bit tougher, so that's all I can say is just keep the ball in play, try to give yourself good opportunities for birdies, these greens get tricky, just have fun. I think it's a great town to play golf in, playing here this is my 30th start this year here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and I used to play at the Disney tournament, growing up in Las Vegas, I always enjoyed coming here to Florida and coming to Orlando, especially, having fun here and playing. I moved to the Orlando area in 2002 so now I call it home and I love it here.

MARK WILLIAMS: Before we let you go, we just walked you through briefly the Arnold Palmer Experience which is opening for fans tomorrow at the golf course, but we gave you a quick preview. Just some thoughts on that and what you saw in there and how you think that will attract fans this week.

ROBERT GAMEZ: Well, I think it's amazing. We walked in and just to see a lot of his little trophies and a lot of the stuff that made Arnold who he was. I think it's going to be great for the fans to see. I know it was great for me to see. They had that whole case of his medallions from the TOUR, the little medals they give you when you won a tournament. I got three and he had a whole case load. And it was pretty cool to see. And the fan experience, being able to hit the shots -- they had me try the shot on 18 with the driver which, you know, that's a tough shot. That's a tough shot with an iron in your hand. But to hit a driver off the deck and it was so awesome I watched it on TV as it was happening, it was fantastic.

MARK WILLIAMS: Seems like a great way to connect with the fans.

ROBERT GAMEZ: It is. I think they will get a great kick out of it. I think anybody who comes to the tournament should try to walk through it and see what it's all about. Because he was a great man and great inspiration to every golfer I know on the TOUR and all the young guys, so I think people should see it.

MARK WILLIAMS: You obviously had a pretty close and a good relationship with Mr. Palmer. Is there anything that sticks out in your mind that is something that maybe we didn't get to see that was behind the scenes in the locker room or something that he did.

ROBERT GAMEZ: Playing out here and being a member here and going out and playing the shootouts, the game they had every day, and being around the guys, he would be in there, even when he was struggling with his shoulder and couldn't play any golf anymore, but he would be in there after the game was over, come in, have a drink with all the guys and sit there. And even if I didn't play in it and I just walked through he would give you that little thumbs up and that smile and you knew that you were one of his guys and his buddies and it just made you feel good when you saw that out of him.

MARK WILLIAMS: Enjoy the 30th playing in your career at this tournament and we appreciate your time.

ROBERT GAMEZ: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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