One year ago, Nick Gilliam attended the Travis Invitational as a spectator. This year, in his maiden effort as a player, Gilliam defeated Steve White to win the tournament at storied Garden City Golf Club in New York.
Gilliam, a lanky 32-year-old with tour length, is a reinstated amateur with an impressive golf résumé. The Wisconsin native won the 2001 NCAA Division I Championship while playing for the University of Florida. He turned pro and mostly played mini-tour golf. Upon giving up pro dreams, he took a position with FootJoy and is just beginning to gain traction in the amateur game. The Travis win is his biggest since returning to amateur golf.
Gilliam and White were two of the three co-medalists after the 18-hole stroke play qualifier, each posting 4-under 69. Gilliam downed former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Ken Bakst 3 and 2 in his first match, and then survived a 22-hole struggle with Eoin O’Connor in the Saturday afternoon second round. He had to birdie the 18th hole to extend that match.
He beat Kevin Gai 3 and 2 in the semis to advance to his final match encounter with White. That match, played in raw conditions under grey skies, was a back and forth affair. Gilliam pulled even after 17, and then won the tournament on 18 with a par, as White three-putted.
“It’s a tremendous honor to win this event” said Gilliam. “It was a battle, and I am exhausted. I just haven’t played this much golf in a long while.”
White, playing out of Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club, is a former Wyoming State Amateur champion with 10 USGA appearances to his credit. On the way to the finals, he took down the third co-medalist, Hans Albertson, in the semifinals, 3 and 2.
In the Dwight D. Eisenhower Cup Senior flight, 12th seeded Ron Vannelli, a perennial MET area competitor, downed 15th seeded Gerry Garber 2-up to claim the title.
The Travis is arguably the oldest competitive amateur golf tournament in America. It is named after three-time U.S. Amateur champion Walter J. Travis, who redesigned the original Devereux Emmet track located on Long Island. It is the third of what constitutes New York’s Triple Crown of amateur golf, following the Havemeyer at Southward Ho and the Richardson Invitational at the Seawane Club. Travis himself won this tournament three times before the club renamed its Spring Invitational in his honor.