The Calcutta auction was held not at Deepdale but at Park Avenue's Ambassador Hotel. Enthusiasm was high and the pool was built up to $45,000 in spirited bidding, though not on Roberts and Vitali, whose high handicaps lumped them in Field B with five other undistinguished pairs. For them to win would be as rare as for a field horse to win the Kentucky Derby.
Of the $45,000, a portion, $8,000, was set aside for charity and expenses and $37,000 went into prizes. Roberts and Vitali played in the 80s, as might be expected of high-handicap golfers, but took such astute advantage of the better-ball feature that rumors spread quickly. When they won by five strokes some members tried to hold up distribution of the $16,106.93, but their protests were shushed as "unsportsmanlike." The money was distributed.
Big winner was Richard L. Armstrong of the Sands Point Golf Club, near Deepdale, a former banker who now plays the stock market. Armstrong headed up the syndicate which bought Field B and himself owned 60%. He had, it was noted, dined at the Ambassador with Roberts and Vitali, entertained them overnight at his home and paired with them in the tournament.
There was an investigation—an unsuccessful attempt to find out who at Deepdale had invited the winning pair which did, however, reveal that Richard Vitali, 18-handicap man, was really Charles Helmar, 3-handicap player and public links champion of Springfield. As to Roberts, he was a 3-handicap man too. It was Roberts, Helmar-Vitali said, who induced him to enter, with a promise of $100. Roberts, whose 25% share of the winning ticket was a tidy $4,026.73, was not available this week for comment. He had left for the Maine woods in a fresh-bought Volkswagen.
Deepdale was embarrassed when the news leaked out a few weeks later. It was the sort of thing that a Happy Knoll member might expect to happen at Hard Hollow. M. Dorland Doyle, club president, suggested that winnings on the two men be donated to charity.
One who refused to do so was Armstrong. To return his winnings, he held, would be an admission that he had taken part in an underhanded business knowingly. What's more, Armstrong said, he had lost $4,000 on Calcuttas in the past six months. As proof of innocence, had he not bet $1,200 on a losing team at Deepdale and taken an $85 interest in his own play? As to his relations with Roberts and Helmar:
He was having cocktails at Deepdale when Roberts inquired the way to the Ambassador. "Follow me," said Armstrong, and they did. Arriving together, they dined together and if anything was said during dinner about their correct handicaps Armstrong didn't hear it. His pairing with them in the tournament was just a matter of following Roberts' suggestion when an entry canceled. He had them to dinner at his home in a mix-up caused when their car broke down. They spent the night there only in a manner of speaking.
"They borrowed my $6,500 Lincoln Capri," he recalled, "and went to town. They got back at 4 a.m."
As head of the lucky syndicate, Armstrong was asked to produce the check by which Roberts supposedly paid for his 25%. He did, but it was unsigned. That, said Armstrong, was the way Roberts had left the check on the seat of his car.
From President Doyle came words of advice to golf presidents everywhere: