SI Vault
Gwilym S. Brown
November 22, 1965
Iowa amateur Floren DiPaglia, who never before had such a tournament-winning year, turned out to be a loser with the USGA, and certain unpleasantness in Texas and North Carolina came to light
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November 22, 1965

Case Of The Too Hot Golfer

Iowa amateur Floren DiPaglia, who never before had such a tournament-winning year, turned out to be a loser with the USGA, and certain unpleasantness in Texas and North Carolina came to light

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Meanwhile, other information about DiPaglia was coming to light, this time from Charlotte, N.C., which he visited in 1964. The pro at one course he went to spotted DiPaglia's Cadillac with its blue-and-white Iowa license plates and was suspicious. "He didn't get much action here," the pro says. "Everybody was scared of him." However, DiPaglia played several times with the city's best amateurs. He also attracted the attention of the police. "Word got back to the police station that there was a lot of golf gambling going on and the stakes were getting high," says Detective Captain William A. McCall. "DiPaglia had another man with him. We asked them to come to the station, and I told them that I heard they were engaging in high-stakes gambling here. I didn't run them out of town. I just told them to stop or they were going to get into trouble. They left town."

This seems simple enough, but Houston Rancher Boyd and a touring pro put the DiPaglia case into final perspective, and in so doing they show how complex the golf gambling issue really is.

"DiPaglia actually has a lot of sporting blood in him," says Boyd. "He won't try to win the match on the first tee with an inequitable stroke allowance. He'll always arrange an agreeable match, taking into consideration his opponent's handicap and his own skill." Boyd says DiPaglia has a remarkable mind. After just a few cards have fallen in a gin rummy game he seems to know exactly what everyone is holding. On the golf course, Boyd says, he will make individual bets with everyone in his own foursome as well as the foursome just in front, and keep track of all the bets in his head.

"I was prepared to testify for him at his amateur-status hearing before the USGA," says one of the pro tour's outstanding players. "Floren likes to play for a lot; in fact, he's out of our class. But when it comes to golf he's honest as the day is long. To tell you the truth, I'd put him down as a real sucker. I've never heard of him coming out ahead on a big bet. He gives away too many strokes just to get a game, just to get some action."

At one time, it is said, DiPaglia put out feelers in an attempt to get a PGA Approved Player Card but was discouraged from going any further because of his criminal record. Apparently he has the skills to have made at least a modest success of the pro tour.

"He's a great chipper and a super-putter," says the pro who was willing to give him a character reference. "He's not too long off the tee, but he's good and straight. What he has most of, however, is great courage under pressure. I personally think he got a raw deal from the USGA. What's the difference whether a man bets $5 or $5,000, if he can afford it? Floren's got eight or 10 salesmen working for him who must make $25,000 a year or so themselves. Sure, he may have done some wrong things in the past, but I think the only thing wrong with him now is that he's a sick guy when it comes to gambling."

This, when you reflect on it, is exactly why the USGA, as the governing body of amateur golf, watches golf gambling with such concern. It can be a sickness, both for the individual and the sport. Gambling has become an intrinsic part of the game. Golf is among the very last endeavors of man in which he is willing and has the opportunity to gamble, head to head, do or don't, I betcha, on his own physical achievement. (When was the last time you stood beside a tennis court and heard anything like, "O.K., $5 a set, dollar on aces, dollar on tapees, press at the end of five games and bingo, bango, bungo"?) Hardly a foursome gets off a first tee without either some kind of wagering or else an embarrassed pause during which nobody brings the subject up. Predictably, the gambling can and does get out of hand. Examples: the infamous Calcutta pools; the thousands of dollars being lost to golfers playing with fake handicaps or under phony names; the storied hustlers with the awful swings who are so good they could play with a rake and beat you 4 up; the case of the U.S. Open champion who reportedly, while still an amateur, played a match in which his backers dropped $150,000. The USGA has for 10 years been attempting to police this aspect of the sport, and it has had considerable success.

Joseph C. Dey Jr., executive director of the USGA and the man whose policies have shaped its attitude on gambling, says, "Our executive committee does not handle a large number of serious cases, not even one a week. And no case is typical. We look at each one on its own merits. There is certainly no set number of dollars at which a bet becomes a violation of amateur status. The amount involved means nothing in itself. Ten dollars may be a lot to you or me, but what is $50,000 to a multimillionaire? Motivation and effect are what concern us. Is the activity bad for the game? Is the golfer using the game for something other than just the joy of playing?" In short, you can gamble, but don't try to make a career of it. Beyond that the USGA will say nothing about gambling. Least of all will it tell who is doing the big gambling today, or where the action is.

However, a survey of clubs across the country turns up some intriguing specifics, and two opposing trends: 1) everybody is gambling on golf, but the amount involved in the larger club bets is less than it was 10 years ago, and 2) the big-time hustler has been replaced by the man who cares not whether he wins or loses but how much he played the game for.

In general, the club golfer is now betting more money in his country club's card room than he is on the golf course. "The modest bet out on the course is usually just an introduction to something wilder at the gin table," says a touring pro. And a club pro says, "The man who thinks a $2 Nassau at golf is plenty high will play gin for 3� a point, four games across, etc., etc., and wind up winning or losing $1,000." In Los Angeles the police department says flatly, "Heavy action just doesn't exist."

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