Relaxing is how Loren Roberts described his week on Florida's Panhandle Coast. "Good, wholesome fun," chimed in his wife, Kimberly. Their 20-year-old daughter, Alexandria, a student at the University of Alabama, said, "It's great when they have a tournament at the beach." Their other daughter, 15-year-old Addison, said, "I've never seen Dad win in person before!"
So the Roberts family didn't know what to make of it last Sunday evening when a silvercolored Chevy Tahoe raced up beside their white Toyota minivan as they motored west on Highway 89 toward the Pensacola airport. The man in the passenger seat of the Chevy caught the eye of Kimberly, who was driving. He waved frantically and then held up a big crystal trophy. It took a moment to sink in: Trophy. Tournament. Loren on the 18th green holding a big crystal cup over his head. Big cardboard check for $247,500 at his feet.
Welcome to National Lampoon's Vacation or as they call it down Destin way, the Boeing Championship at Sandestin. Roberts struck a blow for all dads-on-holiday on Sunday by shooting a final-round 65 over a windblown Raven Golf Club at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. That was more than good enough to beat a Champions tour field of working stiffs, most of whom can't remember the last time they drove a car down a sun-baked highway with the missus questioning the route and pigtailed Jennifer screaming, "Bobby's staring at me again!"
It was a real Lampoon move, though, to drive off without the crystal. Tournament media coordinator Scott McKinney caught up with Roberts six miles from the course and held a second trophy ceremony in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket. "Loren had the best line," McKinney said afterward. "He said, 'I get to keep it?'"
Roberts, to be fair, usually leaves the family at home. He's almost 52 years old, and like most pros his age he's trying to keep the competitive flame burning. He sums up his eight-wins-but-no-majors PGA Tour career with a philosophical shrug, saying, "I was a nice player, but it took me 13 years to finally figure out how to win." Once he learned, though, he went to town. His first senior win, the 2005 Jeld- Wen Tradition, was a major. Last year he pushed Jay Haas for player-of-the-year honors by winning four more times, most impressively at the Senior British Open another major at Turnberry, Scotland, where Roberts defeated Argentina's Eduardo Romero on the first hole of a playoff.
At Sandestin it was Romero again who put up the stoutest fight, although for eight holes on Sunday you would have put your money on second-round leader Haas (the only senior with two wins in 2007) or on firstround coleader Tom Purtzer, who along with Romero shot a course-record-tying nineunder- par 62 last Friday. The 6,904-yard Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout, Purtzer had said, is "pretty defenseless" when there is no wind, as was the case on Friday. On Sunday, however, both Haas and Purtzer unraveled on the 9th hole Haas with a double bogey that knocked him out of the lead for good, Purtzer with a bogey that killed his momentum.
Roberts, playing in the second-to-last group, made birdie at 10 to take the lead at 14 under. He did not know this, however, because he was on vacation. "I made it a point to not look at any leader boards," he said, sounding like a stockbroker who turns off his BlackBerry while weekending in the Hamptons.
Later Roberts was grinning, but his expression turned to mock dismay when a reporter asked him if he was going to take his family to future tournaments. Said Roberts, "You kidding? I want my kids in school, studying."
You could almost hear the girls say, "Aw, Dad."