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The Con Was On
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April 24, 1995
In a new novel, legends Walter Hagen and Titanic Thompson square off in a match in which everything is a little shady
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April 24, 1995

The Con Was On

In a new novel, legends Walter Hagen and Titanic Thompson square off in a match in which everything is a little shady

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The 17th, like the 7th, is a par-3. The green is in the shape of an hourglass, surrounded by an assortment of odd-shaped bunkers and bordered on the left and rear by the ocean. The main difference between the two holes is that number 7 is the length of a football field, while 17 is more than twice as long.

Haig slammed a brassie toward the green. His ball was hit well, but the wind shifted as he hit, giving Haig's shot an extra push and sending it into one of the back bunkers.

Advantage Titanic. Thompson pulled out his driver, just as he had done on 7. This time, however, there was no murmur from the gallery. In this fickle wind the club selection was eminently reasonable.

But all that changed when he uncorked the shot. It soared like Lindbergh for Paris, but in the opposite direction. Headed due west, this was one shot that looked as if it would carry Hawaii. This baby wasn't coming down until it hit Japan.

Haig looked over at me and shrugged. We both fixed our eyes on Titanic. With his shot drowning in a watery grave, Titanic had to concede the match. He paid Haig the same way a banker hands out greenbacks to a patron making a withdrawal. It was only business.

The crowd applauded both players, and everyone walked the 18th fairway back to the Lodge. "Have you figured it out?" I asked Haig in a whisper as we walked.

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking," Haig said. "He's pretty good, I'll tell you that. But he probably picked this place 'cause they don't know him around these parts. One thing a hustler can't handle is a reputation. Me, junior, it's my life's blood. To a guy like Titanic, though, it's death."

I was looking over the crowd, noticing the clothing, the long dresses, the hats on the men and women, when Haig snapped his fingers. "Gotta be," he said, turning around to find Titanic.

Thompson was smiling as he worked his way through a knot of spectators. They were all handing him money, some more gracefully than others, and to each of the losers Titanic simply said, "That's the way it goes, boys."

"I understood the shot on 17," said Haig, finally cornering Thompson in the lodge. "Hell, Titanic, I can see you hitting a driver under those circumstances. But that one on 7? What were you doing out there?"

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