Sixty-five years ago, Bob Chilcott was submerged in the cockpit of a shattered B-24 bomber that had smacked into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Malta. “We took a hit over Sicily,” Chilcott said. “By the grace of God, I flew 60 miles with two engines on fire, one out, and the hydraulic system out. The nearest base was Malta. I tried to belly flop it in. When [the plane] hit, I went unconscious. I woke up underwater. I released the seat belt and swam to daylight.”
All but one of Chilcott’s nine fellow crewmen survived the crash landing. They clung to rafts and were picked up by a British patrol, very happy to be alive and thankful for their pilot’s competence.
Bob Chilcott’s sense of control is as sharp as ever. Now he displays it on the golf course. A week before he turned 90, he shot a round of 82 at the Santa Barbara Golf Club. He has turned the unusual feat of shooting one’s age into a routine occurrence. He also routinely beats up on the younger men in the TGIF golfing group that meets weekly at the club. But they love him. They celebrated his birthday last Friday. “There’s no nicer guy in the group,” said John Stoney. “We’re all happy when he’s with us.”
Bob’s oldest son, Gary, came from Oregon to spend the week with his father. “I played him the other day and shot one of my best rounds, an 87,” Gary Chilcott said. “He shot an 84.”
The elder Chilcott’s wife, Florence, is not impressed. “She says, ‘As long as you’ve been playing, I should think you’d get better,'” said Bob. “She’s wonderful,” he added. “She’s put up with me for 67 years.”
They have two other sons. Steve Chilcott, the youngest, is the answer to a sports trivia question: Who was the number one pick in the 1966 baseball draft, ahead of Reggie Jackson, but never made it to the majors? His career was short-circuited by a shoulder injury.
Bob, a strapping six-footer, has a strength that belies his age. In a handshake, his grip is viselike. He was working as an Edison manager in Lancaster when Steve went to high school. He was transferred to Santa Barbara 33 years ago. His close friend and colleague Don Warner, a veteran World War II pilot himself, introduced Chilcott to golf. They were charter members of the TGIF group. “Bob was fiery when he was younger,” said Warner, 85. “It steamed him to miss a shot.”
Age has not slowed Chilcott down. He plays an up-tempo game. His approach shot landed about 20 feet from the hole at the 18th green last Friday. He stood over the ball for hardly a second before he rapped the putt. The ball slid a foot past the cup. He gave a glad-that’s-over-with scowl after tapping in. His score was-horrors-a fat 93.
It was Gary Chilcott’s big chance. But he came in with a 95.
“You beat me again,” he said to his father-an oft-repeated remonstrance.
FEATS AND FTES: Cal center Alex Mack (San Marcos High ’04) won the Draddy Trophy, known as the academic Heisman, awarded by the National Football Foundation to the top senior scholar-athlete in college football. Mack, who had already graduated with a 3.61 grade point average and bachelor’s degree in legal studies, began working toward a master’s in education this fall while spearheading the Golden Bears’ offensive line. : The National Soccer Coaches Association named SBCC forward Mark Knight to the Junior College All-American Team. Knight, a prolific scorer (59 goals in two years), has made a verbal commitment to play at Louisville. His teammate Waid Ibrahim, a flashy midfielder, is bound for UCSB. : Westmont College grad Ron Shelton, the screenwriter and director (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), could hardly have conceived a more hokey script than this: Westmont’s junior guard Christopher “CJ” Jackson, who had not scored a point all night, hit a last-second jumper to lift the Warriors to a 63-61 victory over Cal State San Bernardino before a Murchison Gym crowd that turned out Saturday to celebrate the dedication of Kammerer Court in honor of Chet Kammerer, the school’s all-time winningest coach. : Former UCSB shortstop Chris Valaika (.317 average in Class A and AA) was named the Cincinnati Reds’ 2008 Minor League Player of the Year. : Jordan Hasay, the petite runner from Arroyo Grande who often races in Santa Barbara during the track season, came up big in her final high school cross-country race, winning the Foot Locker National Championship for the second time with a gritty finishing kick. She also won as a freshman in 2005.