Show me the money!

May 22, 2014

Whenever my foursome gets together for a golf day, we usually stand at the first tee box and discuss the game we will play for money, lunch or the first pitcher of … Diet Coke … at the nineteenth hole.

Over a number of years, our favorite game is a variation of “Wolf,” where each hole is worth one point and the players rotate picking each other as partners to arrive at a combined stroke total for each hole. The lowest total score wins the hole, while ties carry over with a new partner for two points on the next hole.

Since our handicaps range from 10 to 25, this rotation keeps it fair for all players involved and the top two players with the highest number of points are treated by the lowest point total players to the spoils listed above.

During each round our competitive spirits kick in and winning lunch becomes a big deal, but I have often wondered what is would be like to play for the big money the pros have come to love and enjoy? And I mean the really big money, where on the eighteenth green a missed putt might cost you, say, $300,000 in prize money. Then the question becomes, “What would you do with the prize money, really big prize money?”

Show Me the Money Quiz

I am going to tell you the story of three professional golfers, all uniquely different, and what they did with their winnings after receiving their payoff check. Try to guess the name of each golfer. (Answers are at the end of this column.)

Golfer # 1:  In 1975, this current TV announcer for golf tournaments won the Pleasant Valley Classic, near Worcester, MA, then received a check for $40,000. Being a rookie on tour, he invited everyone at the local bar to drink on him after he stuffed the check in his pocket. The next morning, he awoke in his motel with no cash (he used his $600 in cash to pay the bar bill) – and no check.

Golfer # 2: In 1965, this future Hall of Fame golfer won the U.S. Open and received a winner’s check of $25,000. Refusing to pocket the money, he donated $5,000 to cancer research and $20,000 to the U.S. Golf Association for the promotion of Junior Golf. He also gave $2,000 out of his own pocket to his caddie, to finish the day at a loss.

Golfer #3:  This golfer can consistently hit a drive over 350 yards, but can’t keep his money in the bank. So far during his career, he admits to losing more than 50 million (that’s MILLION) to heavy gambling. After coming in second to Tiger Woods in the World Golf Championship, he lost his $750,000 winnings playing $5,000 slot machines in Las Vegas.

Honorable Mention: This amateur golfer hit a hole-in-one on the 17th green at the 1981 Singapore Open, finished the round, and then sat in the locker room for three hours, visibly distraught, because if he accepted the prizes he would lose his amateur standing. He drove the sponsors crazy waiting for his answer.

19th Hole Trivia

Ian Baker-Finch won a $5,000 cow as part of his winnings in the 1988 Bridgestone/Aso Open in Japan.

Gary McCord’s sponsor for his first three years on the PGA tour was Lawrence Welk, the famous bandleader.

Show Me the Money Answers

1. Roger Maltibie was awarded a personal check for $40,000 at the winner’s ceremony and stuffed it into his pocket. That night at a local tavern, he lost the check and the next day the cleaning lady found it and returned it, but when Maltibie came to his senses that same morning, he frantically called the tournament director who canceled the first check and gave him another one.

2.  In 1962, Gary Player made a promise that if he ever won the U.S. Open he would give his winnings to charity. A true gentleman.

3. John Daley, what else can I say?

4. Yoshiaka Ono, an avid Japanese amateur golfer, chose to turn down $50,000 and a new car ($40,000) in order to retain his amateur status. I say show me the money and the car!

Allan Zullo, The Golf Nut’s Book of Amazing Feats and Records.
Chris Rodell, Golf is a Funny Game.

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