By Bob Arnett
TERRE HAUTE — An old saying goes something like this. “Golf is not a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that.”
That may be overstating the matter, but when golf is coupled with the possibility of being murdered, it certainly gives the potential victim something to worry about.
Hubert Green found himself in that exact position going into the final round of the U.S. Open Championship at Southern Hills C.C. in Tulsa, Okla., back in 1977.
Green had enough on his mind with a one shot lead after 54 holes and high hopes of becoming the U. S. Open champion, when he was notified that a woman had called advising that he would be shot on the 15th hole of that final round.
After being advised of the threat, Green was asked if he wanted to withdraw from the tournament, a request he immediately rejected. Hubert admitted to being nervous, but not because his life had been threatened, but due to the fact he was on top of the leaderboard heading into the final 18.
Green did agree for security to accompany him as he made his way around Southern Hills. By the time he reached the 15th green, his nervous system had kicked into overdrive. After getting the sensation that he was going to be shot and leaving his first putt short, he said aloud, “Chicken” and he added that he wasn’t referring to the putt. When Hubert holed a four-foot putt for a one-stroke victory over Lou Graham, he had to feel that he had accomplished double triumphs, one over the U.S. Open field and another over fear. The following year a note left on Green’s locker in Phoenix stated, “Sorry I missed you last year at Tulsa on 15. We’ll get you today.” It was obviously a hoax.
Hubert Green, however, isn’t the only professional golfer who has had to contend with death threats. Loyd Mangram, a PGA star of yesteryear, received notification that he would be killed back in 1951. At that time he was playing in the St. Paul Open. Mangrum played the final round in 70 strokes and won the tournament without incident.
Let’s face facts, golfers have enough to worry about such as: avoiding out of bounds, keeping tee shots in the fairways, staying out of bunkers and eschewing water hazards.
Both Green and Mangram were big winners during their competitive years, and both were not about to allow something like potential assassinations to deter their respective bids to win golf tournaments.
Floyd Shassere reports that his golf game had been lost, strayed or stolen during much of the season, however, he indicates it has been recovered.
As proof, Satch has recently recorded three successive rounds of 69, 70 and 71 scored at Lost Creek at the Elks from regulation tees. Floyd has a reputation as a “grinder” of the first order.
If you like to bet on your golf game, (and most golfers do) a skins game offers the opportunity for a healthy reward without gambling much of your hard earned cash.
In a tournament with 180 players, each golfer who wishes to be involved in the action may put up five dollars, making a pot of $900 if the entire field wants to participate. Rarely will all players want to contribute. If the golfer rarely makes a birdie, this game may be a bad investment. Additionally, with a large number in the “game”, often it will take an eagle to win a portion of the pot, but also eagles sometimes are tied, and you must have the single lowest score on a particular hole to claim a skin. If there are multiple skins, the pot is divided.
During the recent city tourney, Josh Thome, a former North Vigo golfer, stroked a long putt into the cup on the 11th hole at Hulman Links. His eagle three held up for the only skin during that round and paid Thome a hefty payoff of $720.
If you’re going to win in a skins game, you must not only be talented, but also possess some luck as well.
Steve Higham, long-time boys golf coach at Terre Haute North, advises that Kyle Miller, a former Patriot golfer, has moved up to the No. 1 assistant’s position at Crooked Stick Golf Club. Kyle joined many Vigo County high school standouts who have gravitated to careers in professional golf.
Are good golf swings inherited or learned by offspring who have watched the way their fathers have hit the little white sphere.
Jon Holloway, who now represents Fore Seasons Golf Complex, has a swing almost identical to his dad’s. The late Bill Holloway was routinely characterized as having the best golf swing in Terre Haute, Jon, in fact, goes one step further. He has the ability to swing a club left or right handed and still get some astounding results.
Gene Verostko has three sons who have had their respective moments on various courses.
Oldest son, Gary, has multiple wins to his credit in Bloomington City Senior Championships. Middle son, Paul, recently aced No. 8 at Hulman Links. Not to be outdone, Gene’s youngest offspring, Danny, has a double eagle on No. 8 at Rea Park as part of his golfing resume, a feat also performed by his father several years ago.
Bill Doan Sr. doesn’t play much golf anymore, but the former Terre Haute Senior champion as well as Indiana Senior Amateur champ always displayed the ability to not only smack the long ball but also to hit many high quality long irons, a trait most golfers could not duplicate.
Bill Doan Jr. swings the golf club much the same way as “Senior,” good enough to post several rounds of par or better at Hulman Links
Curtis Strange, back in 1988, became the first professional to earn one million dollars in prize money on the PGA Tour. Now, 19 years later, the number of million dollars-and-up winners will total nearly 100.
It would appear that a golfer who earns playing privileges on the big tour has an excellent chance of becoming a millionaire.
If you want a solid golf game, spend 50 percent of your practice time on the putting green. The adage “a good putter is a match for anyone” is true as it can be.
n Tip of the week — With cold weather coming, you can still practice your putting inside on a carpet. Actually, short game guru, Dave Pelz, says that is the best way to work the gremlins out of your putting stroke.
Until next season, be sure to remember just two things, keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.
Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at the Tribune-Star, P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808.