As a high school athlete he was a sprinter and a football player. A knee injury in the second game his freshman year ended his college football career. He spent the remaining years of college playing on the golf team and drinking beer.
When I met Bill, his body was shaped like a light bulb with a smaller light bulb on top for a head. He wore his Bermuda shorts below his huge belly causing the shorts to hang well below his knees. Weighing about 280 lbs, on a 5’10”a frame, Bill looked like anything but an athlete. Don’t let appearances fool you! Bill paid for most of his golf and all of his beer by conning unsuspecting “fish,” as he called them, in bets he knew he could win. In bars Bill would challenge a “fish” into a short foot race. We would go outside on the street; Bill would then attempt to increase the bet. Someone would hold the money and go to the finish line 30 or 40 yards away. Bill would kick off his shoes and have someone count 1, 2, 3 go. His quick start won most races in the first ten yards. I never saw him lose and most of the time he jogged to the finish line to collect the money.
His favorite golf club was a Golfcraft, fiberglass shaft, mallet head putter with the brass back on the head. He was an excellent putter with great touch and would usually pay for a round on the putting green warming up. But his favorite trick was to bet that he could hit a ball onto the green with his putter from up to 180 yards, sometimes he would have to add – off a golf pencil – to get the bet.
The $200 bet he won at Olathe CC near Kansas City about five years after college was something I will never forget. After our round of golf and several pitchers of beer the boisterous Bill started working his “fish”. The Humpty Dumpty shaped, human bet he could hit his putter over the lake that fronted the 18th green, from the deck of the clubhouse, a carry of about 160 yards. More beer was consumed, but the “fish” was not taking the bait so Bill kept increasing the degree of difficulty and the amount of the wager.
Picture this, a fat guy balancing on one leg on the top rail of a split-rail fence with his putter in his hands and the golf ball teed on a golf pencil. Bill made a real show of it and everyone at the club, including the pro, who held the money, gathered to watch. Some bet he could not even stand on the fence on one leg. Others were speculating on how hard he would fall using a watermelon as an example. Then Bill got serious, carefully balancing on his right leg; he took a few practice swings, each with a little more energy. A pause for a few seconds, then the brand new Titleist was in the air with a beautiful trajectory and a slight draw. Still balancing on one leg Bill watched the dimpled sphere clear the lake safely onto the fairway beyond. Bill hopped off the fence grabbed the money and said to me, “lets go get a steak.”
As we walked away Bill said over his shoulder to the “fish.” “You can keep the ball!!”