Schmidt's thousand-balls-a-day habit forced him to work out a deal with the range pro—unlimited practice balls in exchange for policing the tee line—and nearly wrecked his hands. ("I still can't straighten my fingers.") But it propelled him to the top ranks of the American Junior Golf Association, where he wore knickers in honor of Payne Stewart and outplayed squirt versions of current PGA Tour players Jeff Quinney, Charles Howell, Hunter Mahan and his closest Tour pal, Kevin Na. "[Dusty] was an outstanding junior," says Amen, who played and practiced with Dusty's younger brother, Tyler, another long-drive practitioner. "From age 10 to 15, Dusty won everything."
Then Schmidt stopped winning. Some blame his brief association with the outr� swing coach, Mac O'Grady. Others say he was blindsided when Oklahoma withdrew a scholarship offer on signing day. Whatever the reason, Schmidt endured one forgettable season at UC Irvine before turning pro. He played the mini-tours for several years while moonlighting at the family business, and he had begun to pile up wins on the Golden State tour when, figuratively speaking, the horn blew.
"It was May 2004," he says, reliving the moment. "I was moving product at a grocery store when I felt my heart going crazy. I didn't keel over, but it was very painful, and the thought kept running through my head: Is this it?"
He rolls his chair back and looks at a photo of Ben Hogan. He says, "I talked to Jared about my disappointment. 'All that effort,' I told him, 'it went to waste.' And Jared said, 'It didn't go to waste. You couldn't have had success in poker if you hadn't worked so hard at golf.'"
THE KID would probably go all in to be as respected as Martin or as well-off as Schmidt. But poker will teach him there's no point in counting yesterday's chips.
Martin, for example, is absorbed in reviving an Oregon golf program that hasn't won the Pac-10 since 1959. "Casey's life has quieted down," says his stockbroker brother Cameron, "but he channels his competitive nature into whatever he does." Casey's job would be easier if Eugene had palm trees and bermuda grass, but he maintains that a little fog and rain never hurt anybody.
Schmidt hopes his poker income and business spin-offs will make him rich enough to pursue his goal: philanthropy. "I'd need three weeks of practice to be competitive again on the mini-tours," he says, "but now it seems selfish to play golf, because I have the ability to make money." Bluffing now—he is, isn't he?—Leatherass predicts that his and Martin's 10thGreen website will lower the national men's handicap average, which, he concedes with a grin, has been stuck around 15 for decades.
"I tend to have visions, and my visions are always grandiose," says the man who made a fortune at cards without the cards. He adds, "Casey is more realistic and down to earth. It's a nice balance."
Which leaves you eyeing your pile of chips and wondering: Do I bet against these guys?
For an archive of news and opinion about the Casey Martin case, go to GOLF.com.