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March 2 2012

8:59 PM

Gillis finding success in the long journey

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Tom Gillis turned pro in 1990 and is still looking for his first career TOUR win.

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Just five years ago Tom Gillis thought about quitting golf.

“I didn’t keep my card and thought, geez, now I have to go to the Nationwide and I just never got my head around it,” Gillis said. “I finished outside the top 100 out there and then I missed at q-school. I thought, well, geez, I’m 38 now, what am I going to do?”

Gillis went back to Michigan but the job market didn’t look very promising in a struggling economy. A friend who sponsored Gillis earlier in his career told him he would back him again, so he took another shot.

Fast forward to Friday and it was clear both men made the right decision. The now 43-year-old shot an 8-under 64 at PGA National, where he is in contention for his first win on the PGA TOUR in what’s been the definition of a journeyman career that has included just 121 starts on TOUR since he turned pro in 1990.

“It's kind of a cool story,” Gillis said. “I like it because you dig deep and you move forward, and it's a good example to young kids, just never give up and keep believing.

“Sometimes it's hard to do that in this game, because it seems like the game is built to tear you down to some extent.”

Gillis built himself and his game back up by hitting the gym and putting in extra work with a local head pro.

It also doesn’t hurt that Gillis lives in nearby Jupiter, Fla., and has played his share of rounds at PGA National since moving to the area in 2007.

He also made some equipment changes, dumping the steel shafts he tried using earlier this season for graphite, which he’s used since 1999 because of three wrist surgeries.

If nothing else, Gillis was also inspired by 52-year-old Tom Pernice who is still eligible on TOUR and in field this week.

“I've been doing it almost 22 years now, played all over the world, 26 countries, played the European Tour, Asia, South Africa,” Gillis said. “I think I'm probably my own worst enemy at the end of the day but I'm a lot better than I used to be.

“That's the great thing about this game is you keep yourself somewhat in condition, you can go quite a while.”

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