Do golf balls and frozen water mix? Like so many other things in life, it depends.
John Lardner, Ring Lardner’s son, was a skilled sports journalist just like his father. One of his articles was about Titanic Thompson, a professional gambler whose realm was sports betting. The way John Lardner described him, Titanic was a force to be reckoned with and easily could have stepped from the script of Guys and Dolls.
One of Thompson’s bets involved an ability to hit a golf drive 500 yards, provided he chose the course and the hole. While that is a possible drive, it’s a very difficult one… so of course he found takers. With the bet clinched, he went out to a Long Island course. The bet had been made in the middle of winter, and instead of targeting the green, Thompson turned and shot the ball onto the nearby lake. The ball hit the lake and kept on going.
This happened in the late 1940s. It was repeated, though, in the modern era by another famous bettor. It is a testament to knowing history in general, and trivia in particular.
Poker legend “Amarillo Slim” decided to quiet some braggarts at a country club. In response to their statements about drive power, he claimed he could hit a golf ball a mile. He was challenged by the people in the club who haggled over the requirements… he wasn’t allowed to chip the ball into his car and drive off, he had to use a regulation tee and regulation ball… eventually people there ponied up their side of the bet. You, having heard about Titanic Thompson, can see the rest coming. The club golfers, not so much. Casino and gambling writer Larry Grossman explains the rest:
Slim said, “Let’s do it” and waved to everyone to follow him. He got into his pickup and a procession of cars followed Slim for a few miles off the beaten track. Slim finally pulls into a deserted lot with all of the other cars in tow. As everyone gets out of their cars they begin to see the method of Slims’ madness. There before him was a huge frozen lake as far as the eye could see. Slim calmly sets the ball on the tee and with one mighty swing the ball travels well into the next county skipping on the ice.
There was total silence as Slim collected his wager.
That’s what happens when ice meets golf balls properly. What happens when someone decides to actually swing while on the ice? The second story.
Specifically, a true “that guy” moment, in the manner of “don’t be that guy.”
The video was filmed by the man’s friends who were participating with him in a bit of winter golf. His ball came to rest on top of the frozen pond, and he apparently decided to play it as it lay, rather than take the penalty stroke.
To allay any fears, the golfer was fished out by his friends and brought to his home, where a very warm shower livened him up nicely. No lasting effects occurred, other than humiliation when he realized that how badly he missed with his swing was being seen even in other countries and at places like the official PGA website.
Remember: if you’re not certain about how thick the ice is, only the golf ball should be going onto it.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite golf story?