This PGA pro has some amazing stories that span over his 70 years living in Tucson. He just recently celebrated his 74th birthday, and he can still shoot under par golf, and his age, regularly.
Gaona was born in Oracle, Arizona and lived in the small town of Tiger just outside of Oracle. His family moved to Tucson when he was 3 years old. While growing up in Tucson he started learning golf when he was 12 years old by watching members at the El Rio Country Club, while he was caddying.
He said, “My brother Jimmy and I would sneak on the course together to watch the pros play when the Tucson Open was held at El Rio.”
He played in the Ricki Rarick junior golf program in the 50’s, was a part of two team state titles and won the state high school championship his senior year at Tucson High school. He had scholarships offered to him to play at the University of Houston and the University of Arizona. However, he made good money working nights at Hughes Aircraft during high school and he decided to keep working instead of going to college. He commented, “That was a big mistake.”
Bobby won the Tucson City Amateur in 1962 & 1970. “I would play in a golf tournament and party every night.” He said, “If I played good everything was fine, but if I played bad it was ok too because my justification for playing poorly was because I was drinking.” Gaona said, “I was always preparing myself for an excuse if I played bad.” He commented on the fact that he would hear people say, “This guy could play well if he didn’t drink.” If the drinking wasn’t bad enough he then started gambling. He would gamble away his paycheck and it got to the point where he couldn’t hustle people anymore. Using the old analogy, he would have to steal from Peter to pay Paul. It all finally caught up to him and escalated to the point of trying to break into a liquor store, setting off the alarm and getting caught on the roof. He was given probation and because of his golf reputation, it received front page local news. His gambling debts forced him into bankruptcy in 1967, which fueled his drinking problem even more.