Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Defending champ: I'm kind of dull

Champions Tour Kroger Classic: Gilder welcomes more characters

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MAINEVILLE - One of the lighter moments Monday at the Kroger Classic media preview was when Bob Gilder was introduced at the clubhouse luncheon at the Tournament Player's Club at River's Bend.

"I'd like to thank all of our sponsors who are here today: Kroger, Kraft, U.S. Bank, Sara Lee, and Argosy Casino," said Gilder, hesitating and then smiling after mentioning the last of those. "Hey, I heard I wasn't as popular as (2001 Kroger Champion) Jim Thorpe. You took all of his money, I hear . . . I'd like to hear the story of that."

"He's very regular (at the casino)," said Argosy general manager Larry Kinser, grinning. "I don't know how he plays (tournament golf) with no sleep."

"He plays pretty good," Gilder answered. "He just finished second"Sunday at the Senior Players Championship in Dearborn, Mich. "I'm sure he'll be back."

Thorpe better come in well-rested. Effective last Saturday, Argosy (in Lawrenceburg) and seven other Indiana gambling boats opted under a new state law to stay open 24 hours a day, instead of 21.

Craig Stadler could very well join Gilder and Thorpe at this year's Kroger, Sept. 1-7.

Last weekend, Stadler, a new arrival on the Champions Tour, won his first over-50 tournament - a major. He would be a crowd favorite if he were to show here. He's made an oral commitment, but hasn't signed the papers yet. Players have until the Friday prior to tournaments to do that.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Mr. (Arnold) Palmer come back - and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tom Watson here," said tournament director Margie French, emphasizing, however, that nothing is official yet.

Gilder said Stadler is good for the Champions Tour. "He's a character," Gilder said. "In any sport, you need personalities. You can't be someone you're not. Like me. I'm kind of dull . . . The more people we can get that are good players that have personalities, the better we're going to be."

On tour telecasts, Stadler comes across as a bit grumpy - as though he'd rather be having root-canal surgery than playing golf - but many viewers identify with him. Stadler comes across as an everyman, hauling his considerable angst and girth all over 200 acres of pristine greenery.

"He's pretty down to earth; he's a lot of fun," Gilder said.


E-mail jerardi@enquirer.com

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