A five-iron in one hand, two pepperoni sticks in the other, Greg Laugeni clomps across the parking lot at the Yale Golf Course, chewing the fat with his playing partner, John Hardy. Considering that Laugeni weighs 390 pounds and Hardy 530, there's a lot of fat to chew.
Laugeni plops down at the temporary nurse's station that has been set up outside the clubhouse and has his blood pressure taken. When the nurse tells him it's 158 over 120, he nearly plotzes. "If you're right," says Laugeni, a 36-year-old contractor from Woodbridge, Conn., "I should have died nine days ago!"
"Eight," she says.
Hardy's turn. A look of incredulity spreads across the nurse's face. "You're 200 over 100!" she says, flicking the gauge with her finger. "This may be a world record. Have you ever had a cholesterol count?"
"Cholesterol!" harrumphs Hardy, a 35-year-old energy broker from Newington, Conn. "Lady, with blood pressure this high, what's the difference?"
Hardy and Laugeni were in New Haven, Conn., on July 31 for the Fatty Open, an annual celebration of golf and gluttony put on by the course and its chubby chef, 230-pound Dave Horton. The one-day, four-man scramble is perhaps the only sporting event with a weight minimum: Entrants are penalized 25 cents for every pound less than 250. It's also the only golf tournament in which the big prizes go for the highest score on the scale rather than the lowest score on the course.
Before play began each of the 88 golfers, who came from as far away as Florida, was required to sit on a large scale rigged to a forklift. Hardy, Laugeni and the rest of their team weighed in at 1,520 pounds—580 pounds more than the four guys who posted the low team score, not that anybody seemed to care much. Hardy's fulsome foursome took the day's most coveted prize, for total heft (each of them was awarded a 50-pound block of butter, a 24-roll pack of toilet paper and a chocolate chip cookie the size of a manhole cover), as easily as Hardy took the prize for highest blood pressure (10 pounds of pepperoni and a George Foreman Grill; Hardy was only moderately miffed that the grill didn't come with a car adapter). "I'll never get to be the fattest golfer in the Fatty Open," groused 265-pounder Mike Guerra. "Hardy makes me look like a pencil-neck."
Called Hardware during his days, he says, as a defensive tackle at Ole Miss, Hardy is a Victoria Falls of flab. Compared with him, former offensive tackle Laugeni, who overheated so often while playing for Holy Cross that he was dubbed the Radiator, is a mere cascade.
The weights of the quartet's other two members—315-pound Brian (Happy Tuna) Marcucio and 285-pound Wayne (Cracker) Rydzy—seemed feathery by comparison. "It's flattering to be part of this group," said Marcucio while posing for a team photo. "This is the first picture ever taken of me in which I didn't have to try to look thin."
The remainder of the Fatty field was larded with plump plumbers, stout salesmen, round restaurateurs, portly private eyes, fleshy florists and one overnourished undertaker. "We need an undertaker on site," said Horton. "Just in case." Horton came up with the idea for the Fatty Open in 1997 He was out on the links when one of his buddies said, "Will you look at all the porkers out here!"