News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Rub of the Green

April 24, 2011

RUB OF THE GREEN: Golf full of colorful characters

TERRE HAUTE — Every sport has its own cast of characters and golf is definitely no exception. Whether it is diving head first into a greenside bunker or tying an unreliable putter to a car’s bumper and dragging it down the road, golfers can do some strange things.

Several decades ago one of Terre Haute’s zaniest divot diggers related the following story to this writer. I’ll call him Ralph although that is not his real name.

Ralph was a solid player who once took Gene Verostko to the 18th hole in the Terre Haute Match Play Tourney. Par figures were often within his ability. Since he passed away many years ago it is not our style to embarrass any relatives or to impugn his memory for that matter.

Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Navy when World War II broke out. Although he had been arrested 19 times before his 21st birthday, he was still accepted for duty.

Most of Ralph’s troubles with the law involved minor offenses such as public intoxication, drunken driving, drunk and disorderly and disturbing the peace. With only three of his own teeth left, Ralph was not an imposing fighter at 5-feet, 11-inches in height and he tipped the scales at 140 pounds but that didn’t prevent him from “wading in” against someone who was 75 pounds heavier. Even at that, alcohol was his toughest adversary.

One admirable trait Ralph possessed was his veracity. If Ralph told you something you could “take it to the bank.” During the years I knew him, I never knew him to tell a single falsehood.

At the end of the war, Ralph received his discharge and headed back to Terre Haute where he teamed up with an old buddy. Together they decided to throw a big victory bash at the Terre Haute House. They rented a suite of rooms, hired a band, rounded up several members of their old crowd which included their favorite ladies, and proceeded to do what they knew best, drink, dance and party. The festivities went on non-stop night and day for three days before the police were called after a knockdown free-for-all erupted that involved a large number of hotel guests who just wanted a good night’s sleep.

Ralph and his friend were locked up, but Ralph got to be “cell boss.” Because of his many trips to the Vigo County Jail, Ralph got to supervise the inmates during clean up time.

After spending a few hours in the slammer, a drunk was escorted into the same cell, which Ralph and his cohort occupied. The new detainee screamed, “They think they’ve got me, but I’m too smart for them. I’ve got $300 dollars hidden where they’ll never find it.” The guard overhearing this proceeded to shake down the cell, even going to the trouble of taking apart the plumbing to see if any money had been rolled and hidden in the pipes. No money was found.

After the guard had gone, the newcomer admitted, “I’ve got my money sewed in the seat of my pants.” He then passed out on a cot as Ralph looked knowingly at his pal.

Ralph confided how he always kept a razor blade in the heel of his shoe for “emergencies.” Ralph said he proceeded to cut a large hole out of the seat of the cellmate’s pants. After the new arrival awakened he began running his tin cup across the bars and screaming, “I’ve been robbed, they took my money!” The guard told him to shut up and go back to sleep.

Ralph and his pal had already hidden the stash in the plumbing, since the guard had previously checked there.

Just before being “bailed out,” Ralph and his pal retrieved their loot, went to Rea Park for a quick 18 holes and then on to the Terre Haute House for what else? A party.

• • •

Congratulations are in order for Gregg and Charlie Kluesner for their win in the Rea Park Two-Man tourney last weekend. Also, an additional tip of the hat to senior champs, Larry Fossi and Larry Griffin.

• • •

It was difficult to watch Rory McIlroy’s “meltdown” in the recent Masters. The youthful McIlroy would do well to answer the media with a short statement, “I’ll be back.”   

• • •

The 20th Sheriff’s Shootout is slated for May 13 at Rea Park with 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. starting times.

Entry fee is $100 for individuals and $400 for a team which includes lunch at noon and golf cart to benefit Hamilton Center.

Get your entry in early since this event has always boasted a full field.

Call Rea Park, (812) 232-0709, for additional details.

• • •

Tip of the week — These days modern pros often travel with a swing coach, a strategy coach, a golf psychologist, a putting expert and who knows what else.

Yogi Berra made this statement regarding baseball, but I think it applies equally well to golf: “You can’t hit and think at the same time.”

I believe he is correct.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.

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