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Staff file photo / Chattanooga golfer Gibby Gilbert III continues to make PGA Tour Champions memories, including last week's 26th-place finish in the DICK's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, New York.

There hasn't been much for Gibby Gilbert III to celebrate on the golf course since playing a full PGA Tour Champions season in 2019.

Last weekend provided a welcomed exception.

Competing in the DICK's Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, New York, the 55-year-old Chattanoogan finished in a tie for 26th and pocketed $16,682. His 4-under-par score after the three rounds put him ahead of the recognized likes of Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and John Daly.

"All those guys are great guys," Gilbert said this week. "I didn't play on the PGA Tour, so I only knew a few of them from college and stuff, but they've all been great and fantastic. I haven't had a bad experience with anybody out there."

The son of Gibby Gilbert II, who won three PGA Tour and six Senior Tour events and is best known for his runner-up finish at the 1980 Masters, competed on the NIKE Tour and Web.com Tour but didn't succeed enough financially to sustain a growing family. That was accomplished through working at the Valleybrook and Eagle Bluff golf clubs, but Gilbert earned a late-stage opportunity by sinking a 70-foot birdie putt in November 2018 to win a PGA Tour Champions qualifying event at TPC Tampa Bay.

Gilbert's full season on the PGA Tour Champions yielded $203,428 in earnings, which placed him 62nd on the money list. The top 36 finishers on that list were fully exempt the following season, while the top 54 earned invites to most of the tournaments, which left Gilbert on an alternate list.

Adding to Gilbert's challenge of playing in more tournaments were multiple strains of his intercostal muscles, which reside between the ribs and are used to stabilize the upper body and aid with breathing. The most recent setback forced him out of a tournament last month in Des Moines, Iowa, and he wasn't sure how things would go in New York.

"During the first round, I didn't know how long I was going to last," he said. "I got to 2-over pretty quick, but in the second round, I was playing with Fred Funk and Colin Montgomerie, and I was 6-under through the first eight holes. I didn't finish well, and in the third round I was 3-under through 12 but then had three bogeys in a row.

"I didn't finish the second or third rounds very well, but there was some good stuff in there, too. Plus, I feel fine. I really do. It's not completely healed, but it's feeling a lot better."

The DICK's Sporting Goods Open was only the third tournament involving Gilbert during the 2020-21 seasons, which were combined following the outbreak of the coronavirus. He has earned just $21,892 — with most of that coming last weekend — which has him 116th in the standings and well outside the top 54.

That could lead to another qualifying route for Gilbert, who is expected to compete again next month in Canada at Calgary's Shaw Charity Classic.

"It's going to be hard to do," Gilbert said. "It's going to take a lot, unless I get really hot or something. You never know, but I would have to get pretty hot these last few tournaments. It can be difficult, because there is so much pressure on that one event you do have the opportunity to enter.

"When you're playing every week, you're more likely to go for this shot or hit a driver on a hole you might not normally. With guys like Vijay (Singh) and Ernie Els, they can hit driver every hole because they have like $100,000,000 in the bank. For me, it's a little bit different."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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