All Bets As Usual
SAMUEL HOPKINS ADAMS
SWALDO GOSSETT TALKING. July 14, 1938. Nobody can call me a bum sport and get away with it. Rules are rules; that’s what I always say. It’s the same in golf as in business or life. There’s the regulations. Stick to ’em and there’s no kick coming. They never yet pinned it on Waldo Gossett that he broke a rule of the game, and they never will. Yet, to hear some of those birds squawk when 1 take their money, you’d think I was Public Golf Course Enemy Number One.
No; I don’t mean we play on the public golf course. The Algonkian is my club, and it’s the best little nine-hole course in the province. It takes something to get into the nineties. Not for the par-crackers, of course, but for regulars like our foursome. We’ve got our set match three times a week, rain or shine. They call us the Verdun Impassables, but I guess we’ve got as much right to the fairways as any of the young squirts that shoot for seventy-six. We pay our dues, don’t we? Who supports the golf clubs of this country, anyway?
We always pair off the same way—Doubleday and me versus Bascom and Thorpe. There's a standing pool of five dollars per man for breaking 1(X), and in the ten years of our playing together you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve missed it by a hair. Just poison luck, for I’m a good five strokes better than the others, if I do say it. Time and again when I’m right at the top of my game and it looks a sure thing, the old hoodoo jumps me. An interruption, or somebody wanting to go through. Only Wednesday week I came up to the last tee with a sterling ninety-four when that little niece of Thorpe’s who was playing with young Don Burden—they’re always playing together, love’s young dream smeared all over the course when there are serious matches going on. I’ve known that pair to try to go through us twice in eighteen holes. Gallopers; that’s what they are.
Where was I? Oh, yes; Miss Molly comes up and says, “Nice poke, uncle,” to the Deacon’s drive, which was nothing more than average. “Watch me, young lady,” I said, and I sliced out of bounds and ruined myself with a seven. Pretty girls have no right on the course, anyway. That’s what I say. They only distract your attention. To make it worse, Deacon Thorpe got his ninety-nine. Well, I’ll allow that, next to me, he’s the best of our lot if he wasnt so nervous and jumpy. I’ll say this for him. though. Win or lose, he’s always a sjx>rt. That’s more than I'd say of certain other parties.
Take George N. Doubledav, for instance. He can write his cheque for a million tomorrow and never turn a hair. But let him get stuck for a dollar in our match and you'd think he was having his throat cut. Philo Bascom isn't much better. They say he’s the calmest, most judicial mind on the Appeal Court bench. They ought to hear him miss a four-foot putt.
Some days you have the feeling that you’re right. It was like that with me that June Saturday. Deacon Thorpe was on the practice green when 1 got there, and when 1 spoke to him he three-putted. I seem to have that effect on him; I don't know why. George Doubleday and the Judge joined us.
“All bets as usual,” the Judge says, and you could hear his joints crack as he tx>k a couple of slow swings. I don’t reckon the Judge’ll ever see seventy-two again.
The usual meant a dime a ix>int on the foursome, two points to a hole, Bessie and Aggie, and a dime a hole between each of us besides the break-a-hundred pool.
“Unless you fellows want to double,” I suggested. “I’m going to be gcxxl today.”
“You're going to be a gentleman, I hope,” says Doubleday.
“I don’t know what you mean by that crack. George,” I said. “If there’s any rules disregarded here, it isn’t by me.” You have to be dignified with him once in a while. “Oh, let’s let the regular bet stand.” the Deacon says.
DY END of the first round he must have been wishing he’d taken me up. Luck? I Ie was shot with it. Everything broke for him just as even thing broke against me. At that, I and my partner were only five to the bad coming up for the tenth, and I was three down to Thorpe. But what worried me was that he'd shot a forty-seven. The centurypoint was threatened. Five dollars is neither here nor there with me. but I sure hate to be shown up by a man I can play rings around with anything like an even break. The other two were rooting for the Deacon. It seems like they’re always against me for some reason.
Yes, sir, he was going places that day ! Started the second round with a par five—can you beat it!—and got the llukiest six I ever saw on the long hole where even I am pretty well satisfied with a seven. The next tee is just below a field of clover. I’m liable to a touch of hay fever, and clover s poison to my nose. Was it my fault that I happened to sneeze while the Deacon was at the top of his sw ing? To hear those other two you’d think I was guilty of mayhem when he flubbed off into the rough. It took him a couple to dig out and he topped his fourth. His prospects for the pool didn’t look so hot.
What did he do but follow his eight with a tricky four. Now he was dangerous again. Well, was it my fault that I got a fit of coughing on the next green? The Deacon could
have held up on his putt, couldn’t he? But no. What did he care whether I was choking or not, trying to hold in! Three-putt Thorpe. I only said it in fun. But you ought to have seen the glares I got. When he three-putted the next green, too, I never said a word except to point out that you can’t expect to have all the luck all the time. His hope of a hundred was shot and I took forty cents out of him on the side bet! He never beefed. But the others!
“Do you call that golf. Mr. Gossett?” says the Judge when we reached the clubhouse. Get that “Mr. Gossett.”
“What’s the matter now?” I asked.
“You jockeyed the Deacon out of the best chance any of us have had this season.”
“Cough and sneeze; snort and belch.” says George Doubleday. “I don't know how we stand for you.”
“There’s no ropes on you. George,” I told him. “If you gentlemen don’t like my style I can find plenty others to take on.”
“So do,” says the Judge.
"Nobody’ll miss you.” says George.
“Is that so!” I handed ’em. “You’ll have your chance to find out. I'm leaving next w'eek for a trip through the Panama Canal and on to Honolulu.”
I guess that called their bluff. You should have seen ’em look at each other. “Why, you big lug!” says George Doubleday. “Here the rest of us put off our vacations till winter so as to keep the game going, and what do you do? Walk out on us.”
“I thought I was all washed up with you folks,” I said, pretty sarcastic.
“It’s this way.” George said. “Some prizefighters have a box-office following because people will pay money in the hope of seeing ’em get their blocks knocked off. Get the idea?” he says.
Before I could resent it Deacon Thorpe chips in. “Then this is our last match. I fear.”
“What do you mean, last?” says George. “You’re not welshing on us. too, Deacon?”
“I am resigning from the club and leaving town.”
YYTELL, THAT was a sock for all of us. I’d heard that W things had been going sour for Thorpe. Now, it seems, he couldn’t afford the dues, which had just been boosted. Doubleday started to say he’d carry him, but shut off. Somehow the Deacon, for all he’s so mild and easygoing, isn’t the sort you can do that with. Yes; he was set to quit on the first of August, when the year was up. Curtains for the old Verdun Impassables. It was no use the Judge pointing out that he wouldn’t be posted for another thirty days and could keep on till then. He seemed to think it wouldn’t be square.
“There’s such a thing as being too high-minded. Deacon, ” I pointed out to him.
“You’ll never die of it. Waldo.” says George.
Well, I was sore enough to turn down his drink, and I
might have done it, at that, only for young Burden coming over to the table and making a diversion. He’d heard what the Deacon said.
“Is that right about your moving away, Mr. Thorpe?” he asked.
"I’m afraid it is, my boy.”
“Why, yes. She goes with us.”
“Siddown and have a drink, Don, and you’ll feel better,” says George. But the boy only went away, looking kind of dazed.
“There’s one pair that won’t be hollering ‘Fore!’ in our ears all the time,” I said.
“And we’ve got to live with that,” says George.
Well, I started to get up, but the Deacon said, “He doesn’t really mean it, Waldo.” So, on his account I took it.
Now it wouldn’t surprise me to know' that even then those two other birds were blueprinting their little scheme. The Deacon wasn’t in on it, of course. They’d naturally keep it good and quiet till I was out of the way. Very cagey.
When I got off the boat on the West Coast some home papers were waiting for me. In one of ’em wras a column about the special tournament at the Algonkian Club. It was restricted to Class D players, nobody eligible who didn't consistently score above 100. Judge Bascom was donating the cup. and there was a special mystery prize, to be announced after the finals, from an unknown donor.
It didn’t take me long to see through that. It was a setup for Deacon Thorpe, a sort of final send-off. All very nice and sweet, but it isn’t my idea of golf. And anybody who thinks he can put anything like that over on S. Waldo Gossett has got another guess coming.
I cancelled my passage to Honolulu, wired my entry to the club, and took the first air liner home.
TWO MEMBERS OF THE ALGONKIAN COUNTRY CLUB TALKING. July 15. ’38.
“Going to California! Molly! That’s awful.”
“I don’t like it any better than you do.”
“Just as we were getting acquainted, too.”
“If that’s what you call it.”
“And me stuck here with a job I can’t afford to quit.” “There’s nothing we can do about it, is there?”
“Please, Don. dear! That doesn’t help. It only makes it worse.”
“You’ll go out there and forget all about me.”
“As simple and easy as that? I wish I thought so.” “And probably marry some other slob—I mean, some slob—
“Thanks. Can I help it if I'm not a good picker?” “Ouch ! Look, darling; your uncle doesn’t have to spreadeagle the map just because he can’t afford to stay in the club.”
When diehards of the fair-way cross niblicks in a finish fight, anything and everything from golf tradition to young love is apt to take a beating
“You don’t know' Uncle Will. Do you think he could bear to live here and not play with his old crowd? He’s located a good, cheap club out there.”
“If it weren’t for the club dues, would he stick?”
“I expect so. But what’s the use, Don? They’ve almost doubled them, and as it is we can only just—”
“Wait a second. I’ve no right to let you in on this, but I’m going to. It’s a deep-dowm. cross-your-heart secret. You saw the announcement of the Class D tournament.” “Yes.”
“That’s a put-up job. For Mr. Thorpe to win.”
“How would that help?”
“The extra prize. It’s a life membership in the club. Wouldn’t that hold him? Judge Bascom and my boss, George Doubleday, are putting it up.”
“Oh, Don! How' perfectly swell ! .And Mr. Gossett?”
“I should say not! That old crab would try to cop it for himself. He’s safely out of the way.”
“Don! He isn’t. Have you seen the bulletin board?” “No.”
“There’s a telegram from him posted. He’s entered.” “How did he find out?”
“I don’t know. But he’s coming. And he’ll win. I know he’ll win. He’s got uncle’s goat. He can talk him out of any shot. I’ve seen him do it time after time.”
“I’ll break every club in his bag.”
“I w'ish you cculd.”
“I wonder if there isn’t some way of—Molly, you’ve
followed that foursome quite a lot, haven’t you.” “Yes. I used to caddie for uncle until old Gossett kicked.”
“Kicked, did he? What about?”
“Oh, he complained that I distracted his attention.”
“That’s hopeful. Then it can be done.” “What?”
“Distract his attention.”
“Oh, yes! He does the most poisonous things to the others, but he’s terribly fussy about himself. If anyone winks when he’s addressing the ball, he throws a fit.” “Three loud and ringing cheers ! Molly, we’ve got him. Send for the brass band.”
“A brass band? On the course? It wouldn’t be allowed.” "No. beautiful-but-temporarily-dumb. The brass band is a figure of speech. Indicating celebration. You have lighted a sjvirk in my powerful brain which is going to burn up Mr. S. Waldo Gossett. If there are goats to be got, Gossett’s goat is as good as gotten. I’m telling you.” "Well, go ahead. Tell me.”
"Before I moved here 1 had a schoolmate who went on the stage as a ventriloquist. I know where I can get him. I’m going to ring him in. As a caddie. Get it?”
“What a mind ! But. Don, Uncle Will wouldn’t stand .'or anything that isn’t fair.”
“Uncle Will won’t know. Besides, it’ll be fair; we won’t start anything till Gossett does. Then tilings’ll pop.” “Don. I could kiss you for that. Once.”
“Only once? That’s a stingy reward for such a gigantic idea. And afterward? When we win?”
“Oh, any number of times. Now I’ve got one. An idea, I mean.”
“I’m going to learn the club rules by heart. And if that old skate makes one break—”
“He won’t. Too cagey. But it’s worth trying. Hooray for us! Vaudeville, ventriloquism and victory!”
S. WALDO GOSSETT RESUMING. After the battle.
I wouldn’t say my welcome to the club was any too warm. The Deacon was nice; he always is. But the other two were more surprised than pleased, and De Brett Stoyall, the club tank, gave me the hard eye and said :
“The skunk has come to the picnic.”
De Brett never really liked me since the fall handicap when he accused me of stepping on his ball in the rough. How did I know it was his? Anyway you’ve got to expect to be penalized when you get off the course. Besides, it was the eighteenth hole and he was one up.
They could get sore and welcome, but they couldn’t freeze me out of the match. The date was the nineteenth. With a few' days to go. I took a couple of lessons though I didn’t really need ’em. and one day I went out alone and shot a ninety-seven, not counting a couple of unplayable lies in traps.
Doubleday and Bascom between them had fixed up the conditions. As the course was turned over to Class 1) for only one day. the play had to be run off quick. Qualifying round in the morning, eighteen holes, four players to qualify and ties to be played oil by holes; then, after lunch, nine holes to decide the finals and the survivors to fight it out in another nine.
The entries broke all records. Stoyall made book on it. Naturally I was low odds, with Deacon Thorpe, Paul Greaves, and Doc Strong pretty close up and then a bunch of ten-to-oners including Bascom. Doubleday, and De Brett himself, though he hadn’t been below 105 in twenty years, drunk or sober.
The night before the match I got into a bridge game and it was midnight when w'e quit. On the way out I was held up by De Brett who was shooting Kelly pool.
‘Those golf pals of yours keep queer company,” he said. “And I don’t necessarily mean you.”
“How’s that?” I asked.
“I was in the city a couple of days ago, and I saw the Judge and George Doubleday and young Burden talking with a spotty bird on the back steps of a vaudeville theatre.”
“Fixing up a Saturday night. I suppose," I said. George is on the House Committee.
De Brett sank a couple of balls and came back to me. “Listen, Waldo,” he says. “I’m lengthening the odds on you.”
“That’s your lookout if you want to lose money.”
“You talk a swell game of golf, but your putting’s ragged.”
That gave me a quiet laugh. If there’s one thing I am, it’s a consistent putter. “I’ll take you on any time,” I told him.
“Right now,” he said. “A round of twelve for a dollar a hole.”
It was too good to pass up. The clock green was dark, so we went to the home green, where there’s an arc light.
I took him for four dollars. It ought to have been six only for the bad light.
“You won’t be that good tomorrow,” he said as he paid up. Then I got a glimmer of his idea. He was keeping me up to make me go short on sleep. Nothing to that, though.
I put in seven good hours and was fresh enough to be out with the first foursome in the morning. The other Verduners were later.
Who do you suppose was waiting to follow us around? The little Thorpe girl. At first I w as kind of flattered. Then
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I figured she was there as a lookout to report on how I was going. She went all the way with us. Never opened that pretty face of hers. Hadn’t a nice word to say even for my best shots. But I caught her grinning a couple of times when I was in trouble. No; I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was because of her that I wasn’t up to my best. No kid can put me off my game. Even with 103, though. I felt pretty safe, as the course was heavy with rain and there wouldn’t be much low scoring.
When the other matches reported in,
I ought to have snielt a rat. Out in fortyseven, Paul Greaves defaulted. Then Doc Strong, who was drawn with the Deacon and was a threat any time, posted a mighty suspicious 114. And when the figures were all in and the ties played off, the old foursome had come through.
Yes, sir; the Judge, George Doubledav, Deacon Thorpe and Yours Truly were the survivors of that morning’s play. Fixed? Of course it was fixed. Except that they’d have liked to see me eliminated. What a hope!
“What’s the odds now?” I asked De Brett Stovall, and I gave him a pleasant smile.
“The field against you, even,” he said, and I took him on for a ten-spot. It steadies my game to have a bet on myself.
WE ALL went in to lunch. Molly Thorpe and that young Burden were at a table near us. and they had their heads closer together than a couple of stage detectives. For the semifinals I drew Doubleday and the Deacon got the Judge. Right there I did some quick, smart thinking. The Deacon, who’s a little guy—only weighs about 115 and must be close onto sixty-five—well, he was looking tired. He’d been toting his own bag. Misplaced economy, I'd call it. When time was called I said, offhand:
“Why don't we make it a four?’ Strategy, see? A foursome takes more out of you than a pair match. I knew I could outlast the Deacon. Well, they fell for it. The Judge insisted on his boy carrying double for Thorpe. 11 was rank favoritism, but I didn’t kick much. The caddie was a stranger, big and bony with a spotty face and a turkey neck. I 'd never seen him before.
You’d think Molly Thorpe would have been most interested in her uncle’s game. She wasn’t. She stuck close to me. Well, she might do worse if she wanted to pick up points on style. I may not be the longest player in the club, but when I hit a ball
I usually hit it right. It’s only my consistently rotten luck that keeps me in Class D at all. And of course I wouldn’t want to quit our foursome anyway. The Burden boy was tagging along, too, and they did a good deal of whispering. Trying to rattle me, I expect. Fat chance!
Doubleday tried every trick in the bag to beat me, but he simply wasn’t good enough. I had him one down without extending myself. Thorpe beat the Judge. So there we were, the Deacon and me up against each other. It couldn’t have suited me better. On a day when I was off my game and they were playing over their heads, either the Judge or George Doubleday might have a chance against me. But though Deacon Thorpe's scores were consistently lower than theirs, he hadn’t an earthly with me. Golf is like that. I had his number.
Naturally I expected to go right ahead with the finals. But what do you think those crooks did? Declared half an hour intermission. I raised a howl, but it was no good. Doc Strong, who was on the committee, had appointed himself referee and he overruled me. The Deacon got a chance to rest up.
When I saw George Doubleday and the Deacon bearing down on me, I knew there was something in the wind. For once George was mighty nice-spoken to me.
“You put up a swell game against me, Wally,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. “If my sore finger hadn't bothered me, I’d have taken you easier.”
“You were good with your irons,” the Judge says.
“I generally am,” I admitted. “Though maybe I’m better with the wood.”
“About this match with Deacon, now," says George.
“What about it?”
“Maybe you noticed there’s a special prize offered. Did you hear what it is?” “I thought it was a secret,” I said. “But it’s nothing to me. I’m out for the glory.” “Between you and me,” says George, “it’s a life membership in the club. I’m giving it.”
“Gee!” I said.
“You don’t need it,” says George.
“And Deacon Thorpe does,” the Judge says. “It's the only way to keep him in the ! club.”
"And you’re asking me to throw the I match?” I said.
“We—ell,” says George, “you might lay ; off a little.”
I was good and sore. “I'll tell you right i now,” I told them, “I didn’t cancel a trip i to Honolulu to go into a snide deal. And I’m surprised at you gentlemen to suggest
“What did I tell you!” says the Judge I to George.
“You needn’t take it that way,” I said. “With me it’s a matter of ethics.” “Ethics?” says George. “You? I might : trust you with money or drink, or even in a bridge game, up to a certain point, but I when it comes to golf you wouldn’t know an ethic from a niblick.”
“I’ll go this far with you fellows,” I said. “When I win this tournament, as I’m going to, I'll turn over the life membership i to the Deacon.”
Wouldn’t you think that would satisfy : them? It didn’t. The Judge growls out: “You know very well he wouldn’t take ; it unless he wins it.”
“Is that my fault?” I said, and they went away.
' I 'HERE WAS a real gallery when the -*• Deacon and I teed off. The Judge’s strange caddie was carrying for Thorpe now. He won the toss and set his ball. Before he could swing, De Brett Stoyall pushed through the lines, loaded as usual. He shook hands for gtxxl luck.
“Give it a ride, Deacon,” he said. “Sock it from Dan to Beersheba. Bust it from Greenland’s icy mountains to India’s coral strand. We’re all with you.”
They were, too. They gave him a big hand when he hit just a fair one down the middle. But did I get any encouragement when I came up? Not a whisper.
Well, right from the start the old hoo. d(X) was on my tail. I drove a screamer.
1 ’ll bet it would have been good for close to 150 yards if I hadn’t pulled it just a mite into the trap by the seventh green. I’ve said it fifty times and I'll say it again; that trap’s got no right to he there. I made a beautiful explosion out; practically a perfect shot if the ball hadn't taken a bum kick and landed in the opposite trap. Sympathy? I’d have got more sympathy from a cageful of hyenas than from that crowd. And when my third rolled back again, some of ’em laughed.
“Is this a gentleman’s game or isn’t it?”
“How could it be?” cackles Stoyall, and that got another laugh.
So, through no fault of my own, I started one down. On the long dog’s-leg I squared the match with a steady seven to the Deacon’s nervous nine. But on the third I got stymied by a couple of trees that may be scenery but certainly aren’t golf, and he was one up again.
Our fourth hole is a honey! It’s just as well not to have the honor. Let the other fellow have first guess how he’s to play it. There’s a mean carry, more than 100 yards across the creek to the green. For a hard hitter it’s a pitch, but for us regulars it's a choice between taking a chance with a brassie or playing short for a safe second to the green. You could see the Deacon was undecided. He got out his wood, put it back, and took his five-iron.
“Attaboy, Deacon!” I said to him. “Never take a sportsman’s chance when you’re ahead.”
i It was a perfectly friendly remark and
no need for George Doubleday snapping me up. Thorpe turned red and reached for his brassie again. At that the girl pipes up: “Don’t try to do it. uncle.”
Was that raw or wasn't it! 1 ought to have had her put off the course then and there. Trouble with me is, I'm too easygoing. As a matter of principle I protested and let it go at that. Instead of telling the girl where she got off, the Deacon smiled at her.
“I have frequently driven this green, my dear,” he said.
Well, he didn't drive it this time. There was a groan when his ball sailed high and raised a nice little waterspout in the centre of the creek. Playing three for him. and the water hazard still in front of him. Naturally I took my mashie and played short. Wouldn't I have been a sucker not to! Before it landed, a queer, high-pitched voice back of me said :
Who could it be but the girl? There wasn't another woman in the crowd, and I was sure it was a woman’s voice. I turned on her.
“I’m not standing for this,” I said.
She looked meek as a sheep. “1 never said a word to you, Mr. Gossett,” she said. “You didn’t call me a piker?”
“No, indeed,” she said. “I don’t say everything I think.”
De Brett Stoyall butted in. “You’re hearing things, Waldo,” he said. “Looks like you’re cracking. Go on; play ball.” Most fellows would have beet rattled. But not me. My second was a mighty pretty shot, even if it did bound onto the green from a rock on the bank. Then comes Lucky Thorpe, swiping his third to within a yard of the flag. A one-eyed gardener with a hoe could have run down that one. Still, there’s always a chance. So I said, just joshing:
“Concede you a five. Deacon.”
No; I positively did not speak while he was putting. It was just before. I don’t care what they tell you. Well, he missed, and the match was squared again. On the uphill fifth we were both in trouble, hut mine was my rotten luck. Our sixth shots to the green left him ten feet inside of me. The usual luxxl(x) stopped my putt six inches short. That left him his for a win.
It was a ticklish moment for me and I needed a smoke. I got out a cigarette and struck a match.
How could I tell he was putting at that exact second? Usually lie looks around to see what I’m doing before he putts. It’s one of his queer tricks. Naturally my hack was turned. Besides, a little noise like that ought not to faze an old hand like him who’s been playing ever since he was fifty years old. Well, he jabbed the turf and the hall scarcely moved. I wasn't particularly surprised when he missed the next, giving me the hole. But 1 sure was surprised and hurt at what Bascom said to me. You don’t expect language like that from a Justice of the Appeal Court. Not even on a golf course.
/^\NE UP for me and things were looking bright. Our sixth is hack across the creek. 340 yards. When I'm going my best, a drive, a brassie, and a long iron will get me home. Thorpe usually takes four. This time, though, he sliced his drive, foozled his brassie, and after a good enough third put his iron into the creek-bed. Duck soup for S. Waldo Gossett. Well, it must have been something got in my eye. I did what I practically never do, hooked an iron and landed in the weed jxitch short of the creek. The caddie with the turkey neck came over to help me find the ball. So did the Thorpe girl, and they followed me so close that I didn’t have any chance with my lie. At that, it wasn't too bad. Not for a player like me.
With two strokes to the good, I wasn’t taking any chances. I got out the old trusty niblick, and set myself to plow her out into the open. Just then the hornet got after me, buzzing right in my ear. I never saw it. but the big caddie did. He was flapping at it with his hat, and the i
more he flapped, the madder it sounded.
What kind of golf can a man play with things like that against him? Instead of getting onto the fairway, I popped almost under the boundary fence where there was a cow grazing. I turned my back to the cow to shoot, and I’d have sworn it was her that said
I said, “You’re a liar,” before I had time to think that cows can't count.
Well, I began to think I teas hearing things. There wasn’t any doubt about the next thing I heard. It was that Thorpe girl’s quiet little voice: “I’m afraid the cow was right, Mr. Gossett.”
What do you think of that! The cow was right. I gave it to her, straight. I said, "I don’t know whether you’re crazy or the cow is crazy, but I’m not crazy,” I said. “I was in here with my third and I’ve only had one shot.”
“Hut your ball rolled when you addressed it,” she said.
That did make me mad. Trying to pull a moldy technicality like that on me. But I never lost my dignity. I said:
“Will you kindly keep your face shut while I shoot? Playing five.”
I’ll swear I kept my eye on the ball and followed through. But the old Jonah was hounding me yet. The ball came up all right. But it just hit the far bank of the creek, ran along for a couple of yards, and rolled back into a foot of water. Was that a heartbreak ! Hole gone. All even again. I could have killed that girl.
Thorpe took the seventh on a scratch. He was hanging on better than I had expected, but he was looking pale and peaked and I looked for him to crack any minute.
“Here’s where I go to town, Deacon,” I warned him.
The eighth is two-twenty to the flag. His conservative drive didn’t give him a Chinaman’s hope of getting home with his second. A safe and easy ball to one side of the trap was all I needed to give me an edge. I can count on a good hundred and thirty to forty yards any day with my wood. Always assuming I get a fair break. I was too busy concentrating to notice that Fred Nichols had joined the gallery with that soup-colored collie that’s always trailing him. Dogs haven’t got any business on a golf course anyway. Whether Fred gave him the word or not I wouldn’t say, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Anyway, just as I swung, “Yap-yap !” right back of me. Of course I topped the ball. Was I sore!
“Take that blasted mutt of yours away or I’ll bean him,” I said.
“Sandy never opened his head.” says Nichols. “A collie don’t yap. He barks.”
Would you believe it? Doc Strong backed him up. There’s a referee for you!
I WAS so mad I slammed my second into the sand, right up under the lip, and how many I took to dig out is nobody’s business. Hopeless? That’s what the Thorpe rooters thought. But I had a little surprise for ’em, an old stunt that I’d read about in a newspaper and saved up for just such a crisis as this.
“What do you lie. Deacon?” I asked him when I finally reached the green.
“Three,” he said, and was close to the hole with his approach putt.
“Oh. shucks!” I said. “I’m seven already.” And I backhanded my ball off toward the next tee.
Just as I figured, the Deacon picked his ball up. I went over to the side where mine lay and called for a mashie.
“What’s that for?” the Judge asked suspiciously.
"Playing nine,” I said. I chipped on and putted out.
George Doubleday came at me across the green. "You’re not going to claim that hole,” he said. He was excited.
“Sure, I am,” I said. "He picked up, didn't he?”
“There are depths of chicanery,” says Bascom in that courtroom voice of his, “that one would suppose to be too low even for vou, Gossett.”
I cracked right back at him. “Rules of the game. What do you think we’re playing? Marbles?”
They looked at each other. “Never again,” says George.
“Not if there wasn’t another golfer left in the world,” says the Judge. See? Trying to read me out of the party.
“What’s the matter, boys? Aren’t sore or anything, are you?” I said and gave them the laugh.
The little Thorpe girl was almost crying. “Never mind, uncle,” she said, and she didn’t try to make it confidential either. “You can beat that old sneak.”
The Deacon eyed me, kind of queer and quiet. “I suppose it’s all in the game,” he said.
“That’s the spirit, Deacon,” I told him. “Let’s get on.”
You could see that he was fading. Every stroke was more of an effort for him. Well, stamina is part of golf. A man that can’t last the course oughtn’t to try to play tournament golf. I’ve got endurance. That’s one of the things that makes my game what it is.
Dormie one—one up and one to go. It looked like the end. The home hole is close to 400 yards. Three nice clean smacks and a pitch landed me there. Same for the Deacon except that his approach was fluky. All I needed now was a half. Taking my stance near the centre of the green for my putt, I caught sight of Fred Nichols and his collie out of the corner of my eye. The Deacon’s caddie was there too, pretending to keep the dog quiet. Unconsciously I must have been waiting for another bark. It didn’t come, but just thinking about it threw me off. I was six feet short, a thing that don’t happen to me once in a hundred putts. As I straightened up I heard over my left shoulder
“Wotta lousy putt!”
There was a big roar. Well, I’d have sworn, myself, that it was the collie that said it, if I hadn’t just happened to see a ripple in the big Adam’s apple of the caddie’s throat. I was on in a second. The voice that had called me “Piker” on the fourth; the hornet and the cow; now the dog. I shifted my putter—it’s one of those heavy-flanged ones—to my right hand and edged over until I was near enough to break for that rat. He was more than a ventriloquist, that bird. He was a sprinter, too. I did my best, but I never had a chance. He was out of bounds with me twenty yards back, and for all I know he’s running yet.
TT DIDN’T do my wind any good. I was -*• still panting when I came back. Naturally I missed the six-footer, just like Snead or Guldahl or anyone might. Thorpe was down in two putts. The Big Match was all even again.
“You sure got the breaks, Deacon,” I told him. “It’ll be different on the next nine.”
“Nine, nothing!” yells George Doubleday. “The first win decides it.”
Well, I only brought it up for a talking point. Argument gets the Deacon’s goat, so I kept it up as long as I could. I didn’t mind the referee deciding against me. I’m used to it. With Thorpe jittery and pretty near all in, my play w as to keep steady and the long first would most likely finish him.
If I do say it, myself, I’m at my best in a pinch. I was right up the middle, and kept there until I socked my fifth not more than twenty feet from the pin. Thorpe was straight enough too, but he didn’t have the strength to hit ’em out. It took him six to reach the edge. He jerked his approach and was ’way past.
“Want to concede. Deacon?” I said.
Like as not he’d have done it. but the Judge and George and a lot more yelled, “No!”
“When did you ever see me take three putts from this distance?” I asked.
De Brett Stovall has to put his clack in. “Last night,” he said.
It was a lie, of course. Just trying to rattle me. Some fellows have no sense of sportsmanship.
“I took you for four smackers, didn’t I?“ I handed him.
“Yes; and I took an hour out of your beauty sleep. That’s what’s the matter with your game today.”
“See anything the matter with that?” I asked pleasantly, laying my putt up within six inches.
Deacon Thorpe was coming toward me with his hand out when the girl and young Don Burden blocked him off. Miss Molly holds him while Burden whispers to the Judge. Nice manners! Bascom put on his judicial manner and cross-examined De Brett.
“Where did this nocturnal putting match take place, Mr. Stoyall?”
“Right on this very green.”
“Can you state the time?”
“Yes, sir. It was nearly one o’clock when wre quit.”
“Then, may it please the court—I mean, Mr. Referee—I ask that Mr. Gossett be disqualified under the rule forbidding practice on any green on the day of a tournament.”
“Right,” says Doc Strong. “The winner of the Class D cup is Mr. Wilson R. Thorpe.”
You’d have thought he’d been elected Prime Minister, the fuss they made over him. Everybody yelled. George Doubleday grabbed the two kids, one in each arm, and danced ’em around the green. You can see the heelprints yet. One of ’em cost me a putt last time I played.
“Don,” he said to the boy, “you get a raise of salary that will sustain life for two, if you know what I mean.”
“Try to go to California now,” Don said to Molly.
“I’ll give my ticket to Mr. Gossett,” she said. This younger generation is too fresh; that’s what I always say.
The Deacon came over to me. Well, I wouldn’t refuse to shake hands with him. I showed ’em I could take it and smile.
“Golf is golf,” I said, “and rules are rules. If you want to win on a legal quibble that even a lawyer would be ashamed of. you won’t hear me squawk. Nobody can call me a bum sport!”
“Quibble, huh?” De Brett butts in. “How about that snide play of yours on the eighth?”
"Let bygones be bygones,” I said. “All I’ve got to say is that from the time golf ceases to be a gentleman’s game, Fm through. Forever,” I said.
T LEFT that bunch looking pretty sick and went to a table in the clubhouse to have a drink with myself. That’s the way I felt. Pretty soon the five of ’em came in. The girl, too. They were all pepped up with having got away with it; so excited they never even noticed me. That suited me fine. I shrunk in back of the wall angle. I didn’t want any truck with them.
The first voice that came to me was the Deacon’s. “It’ll seem queer Saturday,” he was saying.
“How’s that?” said George Doubleday, kind of gruff.
“Without Waldo Gossett.”
“Rout of the Verdun Impassables,” the Judge said. He laughed, but it was pretty hollow.
“Who’s going to keep you young gallopers in your proper place?” the Deacon asked Don.
Molly Thorpe’s clear young voice piped up. “What I don’t get is why you like to play with him after all you’ve said about him.”
“Habit, I guess,” says the Deacon. “Old habit.”
“Bad habit, if you ask me,” says Doubleday.
“Oh, come now, George,” says Deacon Thorpe. “What other match could you get the same kick out of?”
George took a drink. I could hear him swallow even at that distance. “I’ll admit,” he said, “that it’s worth all the money to hear him squawk when he loses.”
Me, a squawker ! I had a few well-chosen words all ready about that when Arthur,
the waiter, said something I couldn’t quite get, but lie must have tipped them off for they let down to a lower key. I expect they were arguing as to who was to approach me. Well, I was all set to give him an earful when who do you think came around that cornçr? Molly Thorpe. She sat down and looked at me with the quirk of a smile.
“I’ve got a message for you, Mr. Gossett,” she said.
“If it’s from that bunch you can keep it,” I told her.
“Oh, now,” she said, kind of wheedling. “After all it’s been a long time you’ve been playing together.”
“It seems a pity to break it up.”
“You heard what I said. I’m through.”
“Mr. Doubleday said that. too. And the Judge. They didn’t mean it. Neither do you.”
“Oh, don’t I !” I came back. “Am I a man or am I a mouse? Enough is enough,” I said.
She gave me a sad look. “Uncle feels terrible,” she said.
“He ought to. They all ought to.”
“They do. So do I. And Don. Look, Uncle Waldo—you don’t mind me calling you Uncle Waldo, do you?”
“This is so sudden.” I said. I wasn’t going to let her put it over me like that. No; not if she was looking as bright-eyed and neat and pretty as a small brown wren.
“Look.” she said again. "Everybody knows you’re a good five strokes better than anyone else in that class when you’re going right. You can afford to be magnanj imous. How’d you like to dance at my wedding?”
Well. I had to grin. She certainly had the trick of it. “Is that an engraved invitation?” I asked.
“It’s better. It’s a personal one. The first one issued.”
“I'll think it over.”
She put her head on one side. “How’d you like to kiss the bride?”
“You'd better give me that message, young lady.”
“The message is, ‘Saturday; two-fifteen on the tee. All bets as usual.’ ”
Well, what could I do? Once a sport, always a sport; that’s what I say. 1 just didn’t have the heart to throw down three old pals.
“Confirming yours of date,” I said. “Two-fifteen on the tee. All bets as usual. And tell those birds to look out. I’m going to be good on Saturday.”