'I feel great,' said Gilder, who pocketed $255,000 for his ninth Champions Tour win. 'I had no idea out there. I was just playing as hard as I could. Things happened well today, that didn't quite happen as well the last few days. I thought someone else would be making the run, not me.'
Gilder became the third player to successfully defend a title this season on the elder circuit. Dana Quigley repeated at the Kansas City Golf Classic, then the following week, Allen Doyle returned to the winner's circle at the U.S. Senior Open.
Overnight leader Don Pooley had to hole out his third at the closing hole to force a playoff. He knocked it to 5 feet, but did not get it to drop. Pooley missed that birdie try to shoot a 2-under 70 and tie for second place with a pair of two-time winners this season, Jay Haas and Brad Bryant, both of whom shot 68s on Sunday. The trio finished 54 holes at minus-12.
Gilder began the final round three shots behind Pooley, but back-to-back birdies to start his round, brought him closer to the lead. He birdied the ninth and was now in the lead after Pooley bogeyed No. 7.
Gilder made it two in a row with a 5-footer for birdie at the 10th. Pooley made things interesting with birdies at nine and 11, but Gilder kept pace thanks to a great approach at 12. He drove into the rough, but slashed it out to 12 feet and converted the birdie putt.
Pooley stopped making birdies, but Gilder certainly did not. At the par-4 15th, Gilder sank a 5-foot birdie putt to move to 13-under par and grab a two-shot lead. He padded the advantage at the par-5 16th when he two-putted for another birdie.
Gilder did not take advantage of the difficult par-5 18th. He was forced to watch from the clubhouse to see if anyone would threaten his lead.
Bryant and Haas finished regulation no closer than two, which meant it fell to Pooley, the 2002 U.S. Senior Open champion, who had not visited the winner's circle since 2003.
He made things interesting at the 17th with a birdie to get within two. Pooley needed an eagle at the closing hole, but since it wasn't reachable in two, he would have to hole out from the fairway.
Pooley gave it his best effort as his third landed 12 feet right of the flag, but spun on line with the hole. Unfortunately for Pooley, the ball stopped 5 feet short, so the title belonged to Gilder.
'I was going along, minding my own business, and not paying attention to the board at all,' admitted Gilder. 'When I asked my caddy, 'how many we behind?' on the 17th fairway, he said, 'we're not.' Then I got nervous.'
Gilder acknowledged there were some differences in the two titles.
'This was a little unexpected,' said Gilder. 'I was having fun last year, too. I knew what was going on the whole time last year.'
Chip Beck had a fine Champions Tour debut. He fired a final-round, 6-under 66 and tied for fifth place with Tom Watson, who shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday. The pair came in at 11-under-par 205.
R.W. Eaks (68), Tom Purtzer (68) and Tom Jenkins (70) shared seventh place at minus-10. Tom Kite (66) and Bruce Summerhays (70) were knotted in 10th place at 9-under-par 207.