GOLF, LIKE AFULL MOON, BOBS STRANGE things to people.
Dallas golfer Payne Stewart has a reputation as a dapper dresser, which I made il all the more unusual when he took off his knickers on the 18th green of a charity tournament a few years ago ami gave them to his opponent. It seems he had lost a bel. Then there was Jim Thompson’s birdie, not the sub-par variety-the kind with feathers and a beak. On the third hole at Piano’s Gleneagles Country Club. Thompson’s tee shot struck a small bird. which he had mounted as a trophy.
Dan Jenkins, author of Semi-Tough, Baja Oklahoma and dozens of sports articles, misspent countless hours during the early ’50s on a Fori Worth golf course Known officially as Wort Hills but to Jenkins and his . cronies as “Goat Hills.” The I regulars had colorful nicknames like Foot the Free. 1 shod for Bigfoot the Free- loader, and Cecil the Parachute, who fell down a lot.
Because the ensemble played golf every day. they sometimes modified the rules to relieve the tedium. Jenkins takes credit for inventing the “Thousand-Yard Dash,” a game played from the farthest point of the I golf course directly back to the clubhouse, i through fuming foursomes, to hole oui in I a chipped-out place in the concrete on the porch.
Fori Worth businessman Vance Minter, who was a member of the Goat Hills gang, recalls that the club manager’s wife would i come out of the clubhouse screaming when the group’s 3-wood approach shots 1 bounced off the building. Minter says thaion one especially dull day. the group decid-ed to tee off at Goat Hills and hole out at Colonial Country Club, some 15 blocks away. He proudly recalls that he was one of only two finishers among the 12 or so entrants, the others hopelessly entrapped by iris beds or vicious animals.
Jenkins admits thai he “I.R’d” before reaching Colonial (he gave up and put the ball in his pocket) but says that Minter’s accomplish nient was nothing compared to Jenkins” magnificent drive from the Majestic Theater on Throckmorton Street in downtown Fort Worth over the autos and (he pedestrians to within pitching distance of the Tarrant County Courthouse. “We never hit anybody, broke any glass or got arrested,” he recalls thankfully. He reasons that police were too busy with gangster rub-outs to worry about vagrant golfers.
A distinct variation from traditional golf etiquette, known as “Lake-wood golf,” developed during the 1940s at the old Bob-O-Links course on Abrams Road. There were only two rules: Fellow players could not touch the person attempting to hit or touch the person’s ball. There was no rule, however, that prohibited opponents from cracking dirty jokes, letting the air out of a balloon in a suggestive way. firing blanks from a revolver or waving the flag stick over a putter’s head to cast a menacing shadow. Nor was it against the rules to careen downhill in a golf carl toward the shooter-as long as the swerve was carefully timed.
Red Whitehead, who now does most of his putting and chipping around Athens. Texas, fondly remembers Lakewood golf. “People would do about anything in those days to get a bet going,” he says. “’We would play on one fool, one knee or both knees.” He says Jack Keller, hamburger magnate, and the late Joe Campisi, pizza impresario, were keen students of Lake-wood golf. There was a lot of cheating going on.” says Whitehead, “Ont time Jack kicked his own ball in the water out at DAC thinking it was Joe’s.”
Dick Martin, who played the Tenison golf course in Dallas, could have been a success on the pro circuit in the ’40s and ’50s, but he couldn’t afford it-he was making too much money hustling local hackers. “He died a millionaire.” says Jerry Biesel, Martin’s longtime golfing partner. Biesel says Martin had only one fault: He could not resist lost balls. “’One time, we were playing $ ) ,500 a man at the Tropicana in Vegas. Martin sees these golf balls over the fence and he hooks his ball there intentionally. He said he couldn’t help himself.”
From the ’30s to the ’60s. the legendary Titanic Thompson, inspiration for Damon Runyon’s Sky Masterson, was a regular at Tenison and at Ridglea in Fort Worth. “He was attracted by (he gamblers like Ace Darnell and Johnny Moss who hung oui at Tenison.” says longtime Dallas golfer Don Millender. “You knew Ti was no ordinary person when you looked into his eyes,” he recalls, “’more like a predatory animal.”
Thompson was a superb coller who would bet on anything, on the course or off. One afternoon at Ridglea, he was lolling around petting a stray cal. ’Til bel $5,000 I can teach this cal in one day 10 pick up that Dr Pepper bottle over there,” he boasted. The onlookers knew they were being hustled but look up the bet.
The next day, Thompson carefully wrapped the pop bottle in a dishcloth, cradled the cal in his arms until it was purring peacefully, then abruptly dropped the horrified creature by its tail. The cat clung to the towel-wrapped bottle for dear life, and old Ti won another bet.