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Money won still way better than money earned ...


The story in this week’s Sports Collectors Digest about a professional gambler winning $888,000 on the golf course over the span of just one month reminded me about the vast difference between modern golfers (for example) like Tiger Woods who play for almost unfathomable amounts of money every week and golfers who have to scramble around for less, uh, structured bounty.

I use golf as an example, but the observations would apply to other individual sports like billiards and tennis as well. I got a real kick out of the story that long-retired PGA pro Al Besselink told me for that SCD article about Mike McLaney winning the aforementioned $888,000 in cash in a month-long series of matches many years ago with former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown.

It tickles me because television commentators expend so much time and energy babbling about “pressure” situations on the modern tour, but old-timers who were involved in the less glitzy side of the PGA Tour a couple of generations ago tell stories that sound to me like a better description of true pressure.

It’s the intrinsic nature of gambling, which means you are risking something for what is often a disproportionate reward. While Besselink’s world is the golf course, I have a good deal more personal understanding of gambling in the world of professional pool players.

I have seen guys jump into Nine-Ball games with less than $100 in their pocket and walk away with $10,000 or more. Now just exactly how much pressure that would entail could vary greatly from situation to situation, but in almost any circumstance where you are extracting cash from a fellow human being there’s some chance that you’ll lose. And if you lose and you don’t have the money in your pocket, that’s a fairly seriously pressurized moment.

I know from whence I speak. I have seen guys sprint from pool rooms who were faced with just that dilemma. Not me, mind you, but guys I’ve known.

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