Gambling, betting, wagers, hustling, call it what you will, it’s always been part of golf. Even if you’re just playing for who buys the tea or the beer. Some clubs are renowned – or notorious – for being hotbeds of big-money, high-stakes matches. If you can’t afford to lose, don’t; just make sure you win – or make your excuses and leave before teeing off.
In the olden days, a lot of players grew up hustling for a living, became exceptional competitors and some – Lee Trevino is the supreme example – won multiple major championships. Later, Phil Mickelson, who had a much more privileged upbringing, turned out to be just as ferocious a competitor and like many top-class sportspeople developed a penchant for wagers on a grand scale.
My late husband Dai, who was not a gambler, could not go out for nine holes without having something on the match – a beer or a cuppa or a glass of wine most likely or a temper tantrum if he’d played badly and lost. He couldn’t understand my easy-osy approach – sometimes I tried hard to win and sometimes I just enjoyed the scenery and hitting the odd good shot.
Although I won money on Team Spirit in the 1964 Grand National, it didn’t lead anywhere. I realised I wasn’t cut out for the gambling lark when I had a fiver on Red Rum to win – can’t remember which year but it was a lot of money for me back in the 1970s – and found my hands shaking uncontrollably as he approached the last well in the lead. It wasn’t even my money really – it’s a long, dimly-remembered story – and since then my forays as a punter have been few and far between and largely unsuccessful.
It is virtually guaranteed that any golfer with my money on him will miss the cut, so how anyone can get six guesses out of six absolutely spot on over one weekend is beyond my comprehension. And how the successful punter survived last Sunday is anybody’s guess because the last leg of his bet earned him a million pounds. £1,039,554 to be exact.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack when the winning putt went in,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
You won’t believe it either, especially when you realise that he had to suffer the agonies of the EIGHT hole play-off (a very prolonged sudden death) that decided the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. When the normally deadpan Harris English holed a 16-foot putt for birdie to beat Kramer Hickok, he unleashed a pretty good fist pump and sparked what were presumably much wilder celebrations way across the Pond. Probably just as well the punter wasn’t at the golf course….
The happy winner had forked out £11.50 at what turned out to be odds of 90,396/1 on what I would call some sort of rollover but the Americans apparently call “a six-leg golf and soccer cross-sport parlay”.It all came good when Croatia beat Scotland at the Euros and England beat the Czech Republic and Steve Stricker, Nelly Korda, Viktor Hovland and English, eventually, won their respective tournaments. Blimey.
You’ll be glad to know that Betfair were delighted to pay out and will be helping their customer come to terms with his millionaire status. As any avid watcher of sport on television will tell you, you’ve got to gamble responsibly (whatever that means, really) and, of course, “when the fun stops, stop”. As if.
The PGA Tour have a vice president of media and gaming these days but as an ultra-cautious, risk-averse individual, I have my doubts about it all. It’s bad enough when people are not really watching the football (or cricket or whatever) at all but looking at their phones ready to bet on the number of corners, free kicks, screams, offsides, no balls, wides, who-knows-what? in the next few minutes. Now that people are back out at golf tournaments a-hooting and a-hollering, a-betting and a-boozing perhaps we should take time out – or better yet cash out?
I know. Not a chance.
The Prasco Charity Championship, a Symetra Tour event in Cincinnati, Ohio, didn’t feature in the parlay but Meghan MacLaren’s first professional win in America must rank as one of the highlights of a crowded weekend. “It feels pretty damn awesome,” the Englishwoman wrote in a blog that explores the mental torments that many sportspeople go through as they work towards that often elusive moment of triumph.
If you haven’t read any of Meghan’s musings, seek them out. They’re well worth the detour.Meghan comes from good golfing stock and her mother Mary is a bit of a force in senior circles. She is not infallible, of course but like all good competitors is not deterred by the odd errant shot, accepting the results as just another challenge to be overcome…It was just Mary’s luck that Mary McKenna was on hand to photograph this recovery par excellence during the Irish Seniors Championship at Westport this week. There aren’t too many diggers on the course at WHGC at the moment so I thought I’d make do with a tasteful picture of my new trolley in front of our old, rather sad and dishevelled clubhouse. HS2 can’t demolish it yet because of the bats – and I don’t think the ghosts have been exorcised yet either.