Out-of-control emotions can make smart people stupid.” — Byron Nelson, professional golfer
I recently completed reading "Tommy's Honor," written by Kevin Cook. This is the story of Old Tom Morris and his son. This duo are considered the founders of the modern game of golf. Spending their lives in Scotland, the Morrises were involved in every aspect of golf. They were course designers, club and ball makers, caddies, teaching pros and ambassadors, promoting golf.
All of these jobs provided a nice living for the Morris family in their hometown of St. Andrews. But the matches against other “pros” is where most of family income was derived. The money won during these events was counted on as much as the pay received by the clubs they represented.
During this period of golf, a professional golfer was a “caddie who played golf.” This was when there was a divide between classes, and professional golfers were not highly respected except for their game.
An example of the money won is shown in the 1868 St. Andrews’ Professional Tournament, which was won by Young Tom Morris. His first-place money was 8 pounds. He won 6 pounds at the Open a week earlier and another 5 pounds in another event. (During this time, a home could be bought in St. Andrews for 20-30 pounds)
Winning 19 pounds in less than a month and the money he made in side bets was a precursor to the professional today. It was the prize money that the most skilled of players were seeking, but golfers of all abilities would play for the side bets.
Most players are looking for the action no matter how small or large the stakes. The higher the stakes, the more pressure lands on the player.
Adam Scott and Fred Couples, professional golfers, and Phil Ivey, a professional poker player and gambler, were playing a match in Las Vegas. They weren't playing for much. When they arrived at the sixth hole, Ivey, who was bored with the game, suggested a new bet. He told the two pros that they couldn't make 10 birdies between them for the rest of the round. He suggested a $5,000 wager.
The pros took him up on his offer. When they got to the 17th hole, the pro golfers needed only three birdies to collect. Ivey, sensing he might be on the losing end, the 17th being a short 147-yard par 3, and the 18th a par 5 that both players could easily reach in two, Ivey upped the stakes. He bet that both players could not hit the green on the par 3 and go on to make the required birdies. The cost for taking the bet, another $5,000. Both players took the bet. Now there was $10,000 on the line.
Couples, probably thinking about the bet, hit his shot into a bunker. Scott hit the green and failed to make birdie. Ivey won that bet. Both players made birdie on 18 but fell one birdie shot to win the bet. Get the checkbooks out, the pro gambler wins.
Pressure can get to the best of players, and golf is where the pressure is magnified. Team games can have pressure, but you are one among many. In golf, you are alone. Playing for something allows a player to feel the pressure of making a shot or a putt that he would experience in a competitive situation.
I understand that one of the most enjoyable aspect of the golf game is the challenge the course presents to you. It is also a great experience to play with individuals, friends, family members or strangers for the company and the shared enjoyment of being out on the course.
The game changes when there is a different incentive. The game and the personalities of golfers who choose to play for money often change when the stakes are raised. Every golfer needs to find his or her comfort level. I also feel that a golfer who is attempting to make a 5-foot putt to save $10 on a press situation will have an advantage when playing a competitive situation.
Gambling has been woven into the fabric of the game since the beginning. When crowds turned out to watch the Morrises take on players from other towns, many had wagers on the outcome of the match. They wanted their players to win as much as the golfers themselves wanted the victory. Stakes, wagers, bet, or gambling was, and is, a part of the game of golf, unless you are Judge Smails ("Caddyshack").
“There is no gambling at Bushwood.” “Yeah, right.” Have a great weekend!
North Conway Country Club, 50 Norcross Circle, North Conway, (603) 356-9391: Congratulations to NCCC PGA Pro Kevin Walker, who received the New Hampshire PGA Teacher of the Year award. A well-deserved recognition. Congratulations also to Anne Rourke for winning the Champ of the Month tournament. Anne will join the others who have won the monthly event to compete for Champ of the Year on Sept. 21.
While we are into congratulations, Ed O'Halloran registered a hole-in-one last week on the par-3 fourth hole. A Ryder Cup event was held this past week by 10 guests from Portugal against 10 from the U.S. The Monday and Wednesday matches were played at NCCC, while Tuesday both teams visited the Mount Washington links. The Fall Member/Member will be held Sunday. On Sept. 28 and 29, the NCCC President's Cup will be played. This is a two-day event with a 9-hole best ball and a 9-hole alternate shot. Day 2 will be individual match play.
Wentworth Golf Course, Route 16, Jackson, (603) 383-9641: The Red Fox League wrapped up the season with the annual banquet. The final standings saw the Shanks-A-Lot team take first place with 70.5 points. They were followed by Hale Merry's, 62.5., Pin Seekers, 61.5., Jack's Caddies, 61, and the Oak Lee Boys with 60 points. The Turtle Invitational was held last Monday. Taking first place was the team of Virgil and Jean Webb, Chris Booras and Maureen Enos. Second place went to Terry Zych, Donna Bennett, and Bob and Peggy DiPace. Third place went to Dave Emmett, Robin Garside, and Frank and Nancy O'Dowd.
Eagle Mountain Golf Course, Carter Notch Road, Jackson, (603) 383-9090: The Fall Don Ho League is in full swing at the Jackson 9. In Tuesday action, The Marteenis and Pin High tied for the top spot. They were followed by The Ball Draggers. Closest to the pin honors went to Larry Ayres and long drive to Keith Deluce. On Wednesday evening, it was Six Sticks and Jackson Six tied for first. They were followed by the 9 Hole Butchers and the Sod Removers. Individual honors went to Curtis Milton, closest to the pin, and Rick Boyle, long drive. In Thursday Eagle League, it was the team of Adam Mosston, Nicki Lynn, Mike Peloquin and Terry Fitzgerald taking first. Closest to the pin went to Janice Andrews. This league is open to all and a reminder that tee times are at 4:15.
Hale's Location Golf Course, West Side Road, North Conway, (603) 356-2140: The Hale's pro shop hours are now 7:30-5:30, as the daylight hours fade. Nine, Wine, and Dine continues every Sunday afternoon. Call the hotel at (603) 356-7100 to make a reservation.
Lake Kezar Country Club, Route 5, Lovell, Maine, (207) 925-2462: The 28th Fyeburg Rec Tournament is in the archives. A big thank you to all that played, sponsored and volunteered to make the two-day event a great success. The results are as follows: First gross, Team Tofflemeyer, second gross Team McClellan and third gross Team Craig Butler. The net winners were Team McGinnis, with second net to Team Butle, and third to Team Jake Littlefield. Closest to the pin winners for Saturday were James Bradeen No. 5, Peter Giraud No. 7, Brian Kelsch No. 12 and Kyle Littlefield No. 16. Sunday closest to the pin champs were Lisa Touet No. 5, Arthur Adams No. 7, Kristen Holstrom No. 12, and Gary Williams No. 16. The 2020 membership special continues. If you pay your 2020 membership, you can play the balance of this year for free.
Francis Ouimet, the 1913 winner of the U.S. Open, was a 100-1 shot in the tournament. This victory is considered the start of golf for the “common man.” The 1913 Open was played at The Country Club in Brookline, a destination for the Boston “upper crust.” When the club opened in 1882, golf was not part of the plan. Along with the clubhouse and restaurant to serve the membership, the facility offered a bowling alley, lawn tennis and a horse racing track. A six-hole course was introduced in 1893. Today, The Country Club is considered one of the top courses in the world. Ouimet’s victory in 1913 had a great impact on golf in America and the golf course itself.
My wife, a former high school guidance director, wants the readership to know that there are some very valuable scholarships and networking opportunities available for our young golfers through the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Foundation. Have the kids check them out!
Joe Soraghan may be reached at email@example.com.