SI Vault
August 04, 1958
Plea to the Court
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August 04, 1958

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Plea to the Court

Golf has been played in this republic for three score and 10 years or so, and it was inevitable that the demand would eventually be presented to the courts: make that handicap committee stop behaving like a pack of idiots.

This was the burden of the plea presented last week to a justice of the New York State Supreme Court by an irate golfer named William W. Wacht, who plays the game at the Pines Ridge Golf Club in Ossining, N.Y. Mr. Wacht's handicap is 29; he has been beseeching the handicap committee at Pines Ridge for a 34. One reason the handicap committee wants to keep Mr. Wacht at 29, it appears, is that Wacht shoots in the 100s most of the year but keys himself up in August tournament play to shoot in the 90s. "Generally, I hit a short and straight ball," explains Golfer Wacht. "In August, when the ground is hard, I get a better roll." But such arguments have had no effect on the handicap committee—causing Wacht to utter the following classic cry: "You have this situation in a lot of golf clubs. You have little Caesars throwing their weight around and members are subject to their whims and caprices. I am a one-man crusade...."

Wacht's contention, of course, was that under the usual rules of golf his handicap should be based on the 10 lowest scores of his last 25 rounds i.e., 34. He prayed the court to step in as a matter of equity and bid the handicapping committee stick to the strict rules of handicapping.

Well, the scene was set for a court decision that might have gone down eventually in constitutional history with McCullough v. Maryland. Justice Samuel W. Eager, who listened for a while to Wacht's plea in State Supreme Court, admitted "playing at golf" himself. Handicap in the low 20s. But justice in the person of Justice Eager was uneager to take a full swing. Cramping up, the judge told Wacht: "Maybe if I went out and played a game of golf with you, I could straighten this out. It would be easier than looking up the law."

The judge asked for a week to look up the law, and nobody objected to this—not Mr. Wacht or the Pines Ridge handicap committee. It might have been quite a week. We were looking forward to a decision as much as you were. But Mr. Wacht reflected on his course and decided that, after all, there are some things in these busy days you just can't trouble the People about. He withdrew his plea, showing every indication of lodging it again, where such pleas have been lodged for three score and 10 years or so: with the handicap committee.


In Cincinnati the other day, a posse of sober and civic-minded citizens hanged Birdie Tebbetts in effigy, and the only protest on record came from one indignant Redleg fan who pointed out to his fellow barflies that the outrage lay in hanging an innocent effigy and not Birdie himself.

In Detroit there was the question of who put the Tiger Balm in Casey Stengel's locker. If there was one thing Detroit fans could count on in these parlous times when all that shiny new chrome was rusting unsold in dealers' lots from coast to coast, it was the fact that the Tigers would beat the Yanks. They'd already done it nine out of 15 times, hadn't they? So how come the Yanks went out to Detroit and pinned the Cats' ears to the wall three times in a row? And why were the loyal fans of the World Champion Milwaukee Braves suddenly growing cool to their boys?

Witchcraft, wicked witchcraft, that's what it all was, and if you don't believe us, you can go ask Coach Abdulrahman bin Mohammed, mentor of the top schoolboy football team in Malaya's Interschool League. Abdul knows all about the kind of fateful cussedness that seemed to be overtaking American baseball. When his championship Paya Bunga club was trounced 2 to 1 by a bunch of rank outsiders from Ladang a couple of weeks ago, he knew just what was wrong. "Jampi-jampi," was the way he explained it. After all, a good football team doesn't go suddenly heavy-footed and start wailing hysterically on the field unless a skillful witch doctor has been working on them.

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