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Ole_Tom_Morris

Who Was The Greatest Golf Hustler?

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Golf and gambling go together. There is no better game of skill for gambling. Most pros used to earn their money betting, not from tournament purses. Snead said modestly, "I always like to play for a little something." Sure.

My vote goes to Alvin Thomas, better known as "Titanic Thompson." Titanic was a gambler and con man, and a scratch golfer right or left handed . He is said to have fleeced Snead one on one, no handicap, but Snead never admitted it.

Titanic was a pistol expert, carried a gun while he played golf (not a bad idea, because as recently as the 1950s, back when people carried cash, there were hold-ups out on the courses; see Lee Trevino's bio about this) and would bet his playing partners that he could hit a coin on the fly. He is known to have killed several men, and was a suspect in the death of a NYC mobster who welched on a gambling debt.

Harvey Penick said he lost money to Titanic, who at the time had a youngster named Hermann Keiser running with him. Kaiser, Penick noted, later won the Masters.

Though most of Titanic's winnings likely came from card games--he would use his golf skills to get into country club poker games--in his declining years he had a black friend dress in threadbare clothes and holey shoes and pose as his driver or caddy; then after Titanic fleeced his mark once, he would offer "double or nothin'" if the mark played the caddy. Since the caddy was often Lee Elder, you can imagine how that went.

According to a Dallas newspaper, Titanic died penniless in a rest home. But social security checks belonging to other patients were found in his room. A hustler to the last breath.

If you are interested in more of these stories, try Google.

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My favorite Titanic story is that he bet people he could throw a peanut over the clubhouse. Now you try to throw a peanut, and it doesn't go very far. But Titanic had lead filled peanuts (buck shot or something) and he could throw 'em pretty darn far.

I don't think you have any competition here - Titanic is the guy, unless you want to talk fiction, in which case Eddie Caminetti may be able to give him a run for his money.

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I read in some cigar magazine about the supposed richest golfer who was not a PGA tour player. He would bet anyone, any amount. He'd play against CEO's of fortune 100 companies half a million bucks on a round and win. He'd play pros (freddy supposedly was one) and beat them out of their money. The pros would lose because they were so nervous to lose THEIR own money. The guy's name was never mentioned...

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I read in some cigar magazine about the supposed richest golfer who was not a PGA tour player...He'd play pros (freddy supposedly was one) and beat them out of their money.

Maybe there are dark, shadowy, unnamed golfers out there who are so good, they don't bother with tours or tournaments. Who put on a disguise and throw a few strokes when they play in public. Whose best rounds are played on the private courses of the rich and famous. And when they score a double eagle, nobody talks or sends in a report to the newspaper.

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