When My Team Puts A Tee in The Ground We Finish

It was August 1989 and 32 poker players had gathered in Lake Tahoe for the 2nd Annual Yosh Nakano Invitational Golf Tournament. The venue was the picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course bordering the beautiful lake. Some of the top poker players in the world were there but poker was the devil I knew. I was a babe in the woods in this field of some of the top golf hustlers in the world. When I announced in my invitation “Gentlemen, the game is Golf”, little did I understand what that entailed.

The par 3 17th green at Edgewood Tahoe

I never won playing my own ball. I was never given nearly enough strokes and I always played against someone’s “career” best. Somewhere along the way, I began to realize what Curt Knight meant when he said he was too honest to play golf. Duh! I should have given up golf, but quitting was not in my nature. I had heard about scrambles, but I had no idea what that meant. Since Google was not around yet, I began asking around about scrambles. After I gathered sufficient information, I thought perhaps this was a way I might have a chance to win or at least get a fair match. Forthwith came the 1st Annual Yosh Nakano Invitational Golf Tournament in 1988 hosted by Caesars Tahoe.

This year the weather was ominous on the morning of the practice round. The skies were dark and overcast and rain looked imminent. Worse than that, it was very cold- freezing cold. I was worried the weather would ruin the tournament. Breakfast was very animated as players tried to negotiate matches. Finally, Doyle said his team would be Chip Reese, Rich Dunberg, and John Esposito as his A player. My team was David Baxter, Gary Lundgren, and Champ (David Roepke). We would play a 4-man scramble match play with one automatic press on each side. This means that if one team was up 2 holes, another bet would automatically start. The betting format was called a Nassau. There was one bet for the front 9, one bet for the back 9, one overall bet, and 2 presses on each side. If no one doubled the bet, one team could win as many as 5 bets. I had just met Champ, but I was told he was a scratch. David and Gary were high 70’s shooters. I was a nonfactor in golf, but I was the “action” that would bet enough to “lure” Doyle and Chip to play the match. This was essentially a 3 on 4 match, but if my team was willing to gamble so was I. I asked, “What do we do if it rains?” Doyle in his typical Texas bravado fashion drawled, “When my team sticks a tee in the ground, we finish!”

Looking around the pro shop for raingear, I came across woolen golf caps that had flaps for the ears that could be tied down. I don’t remember what else I wore that day but we looked like a motley crew going ice fishing wearing those caps, not golfing.

It started drizzling after only a few holes. A couple of times, it hailed. The rain was bad enough but when it is also frigid, the misery is accentuated. It was going to be a long day. On the flip side I had another new experience which was hog’s heaven-playing with a scratch golfer as a partner. I would hit a tee shot and go pick my ball up. After the iron shot, I would again pick up my ball and go to the green with my putter. I didn’t realize golf was so easy! Now once on the green, it became tricky. It’s impossible to putt on a wet green. You must putt the ball up above the water toward the hole. We must have been able to do that better than Doyle’s team because after nine holes we were up either 4-2 or 3-1. That means we had won 2 bets and had a decent lead for the 18. By then the rain had been falling steadily and we headed into the clubhouse to warm up and get out of the rain albeit momentarily.

Back inside, Doyle’s team looked decrepit. They were sprawled in their chairs, with somber faces as we came in beaming and ordered hot chocolate. After we finished our hot drinks, I asked Doyle if they were ready. Esposito who has a loud firm voice said, “Listen, I have a wife and kids to think about. I’m not going back out there. I am not going to die over some stupid golf match.” I’m sure we were all relieved not to have to go back out into that wretched weather but I couldn’t help one parting jab. “Doyle, I thought you said when your team puts a tee in the ground you finish?” Little did I realize that Doyle was already plotting his rematch.

At the end of Day 1, we are sweating Doyle’s team of Randy Kunert, Bernie, & Tab who has a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th. Doyle has bet Esposito & I his team against every other team for $5k each. If they make it, he breaks even. If they miss he will lose $25k. It came down to their last putter, Tab who drained it. L-R John Esposito, Yosh Nakano, Mike Picow, Tommy Fischer, Puggy Pearson, Joe Bernier, Rich Dunberg (ear flaps cap), Wally Nakano, unk, Joe Nakano, Fred, unk.

In Memoriam Gary Mark Lundren Nov. 15, 1957- Mar. 7, 2018

I know I was a heavy load, but you carried me as your partner from Industry Hills to Ojai to as far as Australia.  We played in the rain and hail and finished 36 holes sometimes in pitch dark.  60 is too young but the science of glutathione (GSH) was not available to us in our youth.  We paid the price for our lifestyles that led to glutathione deficiency.  That led to oxidative stress which caused my diabetes.  For you it manifested itself in cancer.  Our product came out in 2010.  I will always wonder if it could have helped.  RIP.