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NUTS ABOUT THE GAME
George Plimpton
October 21, 1968
Professional golf has had its celebrated characters—the Bolts, the Demarets, the Sneads, the Hagens—but any excesses of behavior they ever displayed are magnified in the long-suffering amateur. Here are two portraits of the amateur golfer, views from opposite ends of the spectrum. One illuminates the frustrating world of the big-time pro-am tournament, the other the no less demanding life of the driving range devotee....
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October 21, 1968

Nuts About The Game

Professional golf has had its celebrated characters—the Bolts, the Demarets, the Sneads, the Hagens—but any excesses of behavior they ever displayed are magnified in the long-suffering amateur. Here are two portraits of the amateur golfer, views from opposite ends of the spectrum. One illuminates the frustrating world of the big-time pro-am tournament, the other the no less demanding life of the driving range devotee....

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"Then what happened?"

"Well, I back up, y'know, and I flash him this sort of nice smile, and I say, 'No sweat, man, you just keep on with what you're doing. I'll be just closing up and getting on home and you just keep right on....' And then I turned and went out back toward my car, just leaving him in charge of the whole place. Man, what a walk! I had that itchy feeling like he was going to drill a golf ball right between my shoulder blades. I tell you I never looked back. Never. The fact is, I came in late the next morning. I open the place at 8—that is, I do usually—but this next morning I turn up maybe at 9, maybe later. And I look around pretty careful, sort of peering into corners, and it is all very peaceful, no sign that the big guy had been there, no sign of him at all.

"But, you know something? It was creepy. Like I felt the guy was around somewhere. I felt it in the office, this little place I used to sit, with the pails of golf balls under the counter, this little window like a wicket. Well, there's a big closet off the office in which I keep the clubs and the pails and a lawn mower and some stuff like that back in there. I had a feeling this guy had been in there—maybe still was. The door was ajar, y'know, not like the way it was the night before. I take a look in there, pulling open the door very fast. Nobody there. But you know what I see when I turn around?"

"What?"

"Well, I see these two pieces of paper on the office table. One of the papers, when I look, is a check drawn on an Illinois bank and is made out to the name of my place—man, in this terribly neat handwriting. You know what the amount of the check was?"

"How much?"

"One thousand dollars."

"Come on," I said.

"In this very neat hand. And there was this other note with it—the other piece of paper. It said: 'This is for the jeep.'

"So I said to myself, 'Oh God, he's taken the jeep.' And I run out by the mats down by the end where I keep the jeep, and it's still there—just sitting there where I left it. But the key's in it—it has a big wooden tag on it. He must have seen it in the office where it hangs on a peg. And when I go up and look in the jeep, I see that the key's bent almost double in the lock.... So he tried, didn't he...?"

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