You did not have to venture out of town—out on the lour—to enrich the game that you always came back to at Goat Hills. You could go across town to one of the dozen other courses that Fort Worth had. You could certainly sneak into any of the country clubs and play from No. 2 through No. 17, placing all the flags in the bunkers for reasons that seemed hilarious then.
Our game, I think, was substantially influenced by those at other courses. At one time we thought the really good players were mostly at another public course, Meadow-brook. They did things like win the City Tournament, which is something neither Hogan, Nelson nor I could ever do. In our respective eras we each finished second. And then there was Ridglea, where Vossler went.
Ridglea had players who may not have been as skilled, but they could certainly outbet you. Occasionally one of us would be deluded by a 67 at wide-open Goat Hills and go to narrow Ridglea. You always came back busted, but at least you had been to the shrine where Titanic Thompson, the famed Evansville hustler, had once defeated Byron Nelson in a head-to-head match, taking $1,000 from Byron's backers. That was back in the early '30s, when Nelson was merely the best amateur in town.
At Ridglea you could hear all the good stories about Titanic Thompson, some of them maybe even true. They would tell how he would throw a ball down on the ground, waggle a driver and say he bet he could hit the green with his driver, although the green was 400 yards away. Somebody would call it. And Ti would calmly walk to the green and tap it with his driver and collect. And how he once bet he could throw a watermelon over the Texas Hotel in downtown Fort Worth. He got a watermelon about as big as a baseball, went up on top of the building next door and threw it over. And how he would bet a man in Phoenix that he would have more mail waiting for him in Fort Worth than the other man, having mailed himself 50 postcards. And all those other stories. You would like to have known Ti more than any other celebrity.
Since that was impossible, the next best thing was just being at Ridglea, at the shrine, in the days before they turned it into a country club for Jaycees. There was one day when several of us were in the old golf shop and saw the pro, Raymond Gafford, on top of a wooden table with a four-iron, put a ball down on the table, address it and aim out the open door toward the first green, a par-5.
"Believe I can make five from here?" asked Raymond.
We all looked respectfully at Spec, who had a solemn face, and we saw him do what we figured he would do.
"Well, I ain't had nothin' this good lately," Spec said, taking out a roll of bills. Spec was an action man. Craved it. Once, even though he had a broken leg, he did not miss his game at Ridglea. He hired a caddie to pull him around the course in a red wagon.
"Can I get all that off you?" said Raymond. "I don't want to be greedy."
"I'll guarantee you, this man's got to make me rich some day," said Spec. "Yes, sir. Ever' meal's a banquet and ever' day's a holiday. We're gonna eat steak tonight and play golf tomorrow."