In the 1973 Best Picture Oscar-winning movie, The Sting, celebrated actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman play a pair of professional conmen who pull off an elaborate grift against a mob boss, played by yet another heavyweight thespian (Robert Shaw). Supposedly based on a true story, the movie’s plot was all about revenge. But for a pro golfer I know, who was even more professional when it came to the elaborate cons and well-orchestrated hustles he worked tirelessly to execute, his motives were strictly about the moola. Stacks and stacks of cabbage.
As I referenced in the previous “Rocke File” tale Lie, Cheat and Steal, Steve (no, that’s not his real name—I’m sworn to secrecy) is as “sticky” as they come when it comes to the links. A former collegiate golfer for a prominent SEC school, Steve went on to join the pro ranks and, after a short stint teaching at a reputable Florida golf academy, decided to take his show on the road. Literally.
He toured up and down the East Coast, playing in everything from high stakes cash games to country club scrambles, and almost always geared his game specifically to the competition he was playing against at that moment. That is, he never tried to show anyone up (even though he most certainly could) or win by a landslide, but rather squeak out victories. Whenever he needed to hit a magical shot to clinch the match, Steve somehow found a way to come through.
Realizing his total game was one of the most complete that I had observed, I asked him why he didn’t take a shot at the PGA Tour, or even one of the less prestigious tours.
“I don’t have the head for it,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’d fall apart before the first tee.” Then, he added: “Besides, all those tours are regimented. The schedules are set. Everybody knows there they’re gonna be each week. Me… I don’t want to get locked into anything. I’m not the ‘settle down’ type.”
Funny how things change. When he met Lynette during a scramble with well-to-do players in Upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains—the famed “Borscht Belt”—a weekly event that included some of the area hotel owners, he was instantly as “settled down” as anyone I’ve ever known. Settled down to Lynette, that is. Straight up, if she had said she wanted him to give up golf and become a beekeeper in Ottumwa, Iowa, you’re damn skippy he would’ve buzzed out there in a blink.
Lucky for Steve, Lynette was also a kickass golfer (like him, she also played for a collegiate golf powerhouse). So when she suggested they “join forces” and make their golfing grift a partnered effort, he was happier than a diabetic drunk in Jell-O shots.
After nuptials at a funky drive-through chapel in Las Vegas (seriously!), they moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, leasing a gorgeous home in the toney Desert Mountain community. With seven golf courses on tap (six designed by Jack Nicklaus) and every member a card-carrying member of the Affluence Club, finding a game to wager chunky coin on would never be an issue.
But rather than play to their full abilities, Steve and Lynette both played possum from the jump, introducing themselves as total newcomers to the game (they used aliases lest anyone looked up their collegiate records), and enrolled in many of the club’s group lesson programs. They took private lessons, as well—anything to maintain their cover identity of a golf-obsessed couple who were anxious to improve.
Even though they weren’t any good at the moment (yeah right!), they still loved to gamble, and wagering on every round they played was a given. They purposely dumped quite a few matches—individually, and as a couple—but made sure that when they won, they never won too much.
“Gotta keep the piggies happy, keep ‘em eating until bacon time,” Steve told me once after he and Lynette “lost” a $4,000 Nassau to a heart surgeon and his wife.
When Steve and Lynette grew tired of the desert, they put their well-thought-out exit plan into motion. Cashing in on all the relationships they had made since moving to Desert Mountain, they played match after match after match, once again both individually and as a couple. Within thirty days, they managed to bank nearly $300,000 in on-course wagers, along with numerous dinners, a few sets of golf clubs, two gold Rolexes, and a low mileage Harley Davidson Softail. If I take them at their word—and I have no reason to doubt them—during that final run they didn’t lose a single match.
Cash in hand, possessions packed, they said goodbye to the Southwest and relocated to the Southeast—back to Florida and the golf-obsessed city of Orlando, where they found yet another multi-course community and started the “we suck at golf but want to learn” process from scratch.
Steve and Lynette are still in Orlando today; I won’t give you their real names and blow their cover, but if you’re reading this and playing a cash game in the Orlando area any time soon, you might want to do a deep dive into your opponents’ background. Hopefully, you’re not teeing off against Steve and Lynette. If you are, I strongly recommend you bring your A+ game.
Either that or just rip your money into shreds, set the bits ablaze, kiss it goodbye, and then forget about the lost bucks and simply enjoy the round!
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