When he saw us walking his way, Thompson greeted Haig. "Glad to have you, Walter, my boy." His voice was loud and deep, and it carried like a long tee ball. "Some of these folks here asked if they could watch us play," he boomed. "You don't mind a small gallery, do you?"
Five hundred people were ringing the 1st tee. If their clothing was an indication, the vast majority of them were staying at the lodge. The men wore tweed jackets and ties. There were a fair number of women in the gallery, many of them with their hands on their hats as the breeze picked up. The ladies had their eyes fastened on Haig.
Haig walked briskly to the tee and shook hands with Thompson, who towered over him by a good four inches. With their hands joined, Haig looked up into his opponent's soft blue eyes, trying to size him up. But Titanic Thompson was not a man to assess with a yardstick.
As caught up in the confrontation as I was, there was still a question that I needed to have answered: What year was it? What would Haig's equipment be? Hickory or steel?
I began casting about for clues, and the answer came sooner than I had expected. Behind us, hanging from the entrance to the Del Monte Lodge, was a banner announcing Pebble Beach as "the first West Coast venue for the United States Amateur Championship, to be contested here next summer, September 2 through 7, 1929."
Well, I'll say one thing for Thompson: He was taking on Walter Hagen in his prime, at the peak of Hagen's powers, fresh off his fourth triumph in the British Open.
"So, Titanic," Haig said as he turned to the crowd, playing them as if they were clubs in his bag, "how many strokes shall I give you? One a side is all you're getting, so don't go begging on me, O.K.?"
The crowd roared. "He's a bumpkin, Haig," shouted someone, "You can take him, Walter," yelled another. "Let's go," said someone else.
"I've never begged for anything in my life," boasted Titanic to the crowd. "I'll play you flat, old man."
No strokes? I mean, the guy might be good, but this was Haig in his prime. Titanic couldn't be that good.