During the post-war 50’s and 60’s golf was exploding in the prosperous USA. Western Kansas, where I grew up, shared the nations love of golf. On the dry wind swept prairie golf was played on sand greens. The new golf courses formed the West Kansas Golf Association. Every Sunday during the summer months the communities scattered across wheat country held a regularly scheduled one day, short stop, golf tournament.
Every small town had a date reserved for years ahead, so on the second Sunday in June we knew we were going to Oakley for the tournament. These tournaments were a big deal in these small towns. Since the clubhouse was often just a lean-to, wives of members would prepare fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans and apple or cherry pie for lunch. Before computers and 1,000 channels on a flat screen TV, people looked for entertainment wherever it could be found. After lunch, the flight players who had finished their 18-hole tournament and the women who had cleaned up the lunch mess, gathered to form a gallery. Locals who were not golfers also showed up to follow the, often dramatic, championship final nine. With the 18-hole leaders paired in the final foursome, each gallery member had their favorite and side bets were placed.
The nomadic players who frequented these tournaments all became friends, but more than that – competitors. Competitors with their golf clubs, also competitors in their golf clothing and shoes. With no pro shops and few clothing stores that sold anything but farm clothing, golf clothing and shoes were ordered from Sears or “Monkey” Wards.
As the sun beat down, the gallery was entertained by the fine shot making on the baked Kansas prairie. The players were locked in a battle of golf gladiators. The fourth hole, routed along an often-dry creek, provided the only shade on the golf course from trees that depended on the water that remained in the creek after the sporadic rains. Big John, the leader by one stroke, had the honor. He pulled his tee shot into the trees that bordered the creek. By the time the players arrived at the tree lined creek bed, the gallery was already in a frantic search for the wayward golf ball.
The bumble bee nest was never seen, but it was very much in evidence. The huge black and yellow bees seemed to be everywhere. Suddenly a spectator shouted, “Is it a Spaulding Dot #2?”
With a relieved look, Big John shouted, “Yes!”
He walked into the spindly brush and attempted to find a comfortable stance. As he pranced and twisted in the brush a disturbed black and yellow adversary flew up Big Johns pant leg. He felt the fluttering wings before the first sting. As he danced upright, Big John slapped at his right thigh with his big right hand. The blow was not fatal and the POed bumble bee went to work.
Golf was forgotten, the gallery and fellow competitors had a front row seat as Big John slapped at his thigh and scratched at his crouch. In desperation, Big John dropped his brand new seersucker pants.
The gallery began to snicker as the proud Big John reached inside his plaid boxers and removed a dead bumble bee. To this day the exact number of bee stings is not known. Big John, who was tough as nails, never flinched as he pulled up his pants and proceeded to finish the round.
To this day, the question has always been: Who won the tournament the bumble bee or Wilcie?