In Houston a rancher charged that his life was threatened, in Charlotte the police asked the men in the Cadillac who were visiting the country club to come over to the station, and in Iowa the state's best amateur golfer was suddenly not an amateur anymore. The ever-fascinating problem of golf gambling was in the news again.
The principal in the latest case was Floren DiPaglia, a 39-year-old aluminum-siding executive from Des Moines who plays golf almost well enough to be a touring pro and bets so high that the pros say they cannot handle him anymore. After a careful investigation the United States Golf Association has stripped DiPaglia of his amateur status for "conduct detrimental to golf."
The USGA never spells it out, but in the past "conduct detrimental" has, in one way or another, usually had something to do with gambling. The cases are not infrequent, and even champions have been involved. In 1958 Junie Buxbaum, who had won the National Amateur Public Links title two summers before, was barred from further amateur competition because he had traveled around hustling high-stakes golf games under an assumed name. The case of a DiPaglia or a Buxbaum is noteworthy only because these are exceptionally talented golfers. The USGA's confidential files are filled with similar histories affecting duffers and par shooters alike.
DiPaglia is no newcomer to notoriety, or to trouble. On December 27, 1953 he was arrested in Des Moines after Ben Bumbry, a Drake University basketball player, told police DiPaglia had offered him $300 to $500 to shave points in a game against Iowa State. DiPaglia was sentenced to 10 years, but a series of appeals ended with the charge against him being changed to a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to jail for five months and was fined $1,000. In 1954 DiPaglia found himself before a Senate committee investigating the Federal Housing Administration scandals, where he testified that in 1950 he and his brother had grossed $100,000 in commissions while selling aluminum siding. Subsequently DiPaglia and his family formed their own siding company, which was most successful, almost as successful as Floren's golf game. In 1961 DiPaglia won the Des Moines city championship, and his financial situation was such that he could travel around the country to play golf and gamble with the top pros on the PGA tour. He soon had a reputation as an excellent player—and a hothead. He was also earning a reputation with various police departments. The FBI report on his police record shows he was picked up for investigation in Oklahoma City, Houston, Port Arthur, Texas, Chicago and Shreveport, La. between 1955 and 1961, but only in Shreveport was he actually charged with anything—he was convicted and fined $50 for "failing to register trade name."
It was not until this year, however, that DiPaglia reached the peak of his abilities. His golf was excellent. He won the Iowa Masters tournament and the regionally prestigious Herman Sani Open, and he tied for first in the Iowa Open before losing in a sudden-death playoff. He seemed the hottest candidate for Iowa Golfer of the Year, an award won on a strict stroke system based on performance in certain major state tournaments. But he had involved himself in other things as well.
Last winter DiPaglia went to Houston, rented a $35-a-day cottage on the Champions golf course and immediately started playing golf. On one occasion, club members say, he played against the best-ball of three 85-to-90 shooters at Champions while agreeing to hit all 18 of his tee shots with a Dixie Cup placed over the ball. He lost his bet, but only because he could not control his iron shots to the par-3 holes.
During January, according to charges later made to Houston police, DiPaglia also played a high-stakes round at the Champions club with C. E. Boyd Jr., a husky oilman and rancher who lived with his wife and two children in a $50,000 brick house adjoining one of the club's two courses. Boyd, an 11-handicapper, told police that he won $1,400 from DiPaglia, who paid up by peeling $100 bills off a roll he carried in his pocket.
Subsequently, police were told, DiPaglia left town '"to get more money," and returned. He was joined by an associate. Gasper Fazio. In February, DiPaglia's luck changed, and he won a total of $6,500 from Boyd. The latter paid off DiPaglia with checks, but then had second thoughts and asked DiPaglia to hold the checks. According to Boyd, Fazio later saw Boyd in Sweetwater, Texas and asked about getting the payment in hard currency. Boyd gave him $4,000 in cash but covered the balance with two more checks. This started an argument, which resulted in Boyd tearing up the checks and stating that as far as he was concerned the gambling debt was paid.
This was hardly satisfactory to Floren DiPaglia. Later, while Boyd and his wife were on another trip to Sweetwater, DiPaglia traced him to a motel and telephoned to demand payment. DiPaglia sounded like such a "raving maniac," Boyd said in his complaint to police, that he put his ranch foreman, Buster Welch, on the telephone to reason with DiPaglia and then "in a very loud tone of voice DiPaglia told Mr. Welch that he was going to kill Mr. Boyd's daughter, his son, his...wife...[and] Mr. Boyd, but he was going to save him for the very last and was going to use a shot gun to kill them with." The same day that Boyd's foreman was receiving this forthright policy statement, Boyd's Houston home, the rear of which adjoins a Champions green, was broken into. Police found that "unknown person had removed Mrs. Boyd's clothing from the closets in her bedroom and threw them on the bedroom floor and tore a mink stole into several pieces and left it on the said floor." Unknown person had also removed a lot of papers from a desk and torn them up, stomped on a clock radio and thrown ground meat onto the kitchen floor. Police have not discovered who was responsible.
Following the report to police on the threat, DiPaglia was arrested in Cabin No. 3 at Champions. DiPaglia admitted he had phoned Boyd, said he had no idea who entered Boyd's house and told police he was going to leave Houston and forget the debt. Three weeks later Boyd dropped his charges against DiPaglia. He will not say why.