Bridge & Humor: Great game of Golf and the Bridge Expert

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“The doctor says I need more exercise so I am going to take up golf,” remarked Ely Culbertson, the great bridge expert. Photo: John Wheeler

By Ana Roth
On 29 January, 2016 At 9:01

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John Wheeler
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culbertsonThe Tuscaloosa News – 4 Feb 1949 BY JOHN WHEELER

“The doctor says I need more exercise so I am going to take up golf,” remarked Ely Culbertson, the great bridge expert.

“Did you ever play golf?” someone asked him. “No,” he answered, “but I once practiced for two hours five years ago.”Grantland Rice

The occasion was a dinner, preliminary to a challenge grudge bridge game, and three or four kibitzers had dropped in either being hungry or thinking they could get a lesson free. In the cast of characters were Hal Sims, another bridge crack, Grantland Rice, a young fellow trying to break in as a sports writer, the head of a large company who was really too rich to associate with us, and Merlin H. Aylesworth, then president of the National Broadcasting Company, widely known as Deac, although any resemblance to a deacon was purely coincidental. Yours truly was the host.

“I’ll bet $200 Cully can break 180,” announced the oil tycoon. The score was for eighteen holes, of course.

Messrs. Rice, Sims, and I cut up that proposition with alacrity.

Culbertson, who by this time seemed to have gotten the impression all golf matches are played for $200, turned to Ayleaworth and said:

“If you will give me two strokes a hole. I’ll bet $200 I can beat you.”

“What do you think about it?” Deac asked me

“If he isn’t lying, you can beat the hell out of him.” I answered.

On my advice he snapped up the bet.Merlin H. Aylesworth

By way of explanation. Aylesworth, is far from the best golfer in the world, 114 being a good score for him, and he may not be the worst bridge player, but he’ll do until the champion comes along. It looked like a promising match.

The tycoon piped up, “I’ll bet $200 Cully, with two strokes a hole, can beat Dent.”

Rice, Sims and Wheeler took that, the game was arranged for the next day at Oakland. It was supposed to be a strictly off the record private affair, but, when we got to the clubhouse, there was an Associated Press photographer, and the A. P. is no great hand to keep a secret—that’s not its business. There was a suspicion among a few of the more cynical in the gallery -Culbertson had tipped someone off.

Aylesworth and I picked up Culbertson to drive him to the course, and, since I was by way of being Deac’s co-manager, I looked over out opponent’s costume pretty costly for clues. He had on knickerbockers, which were of the plus four type and very English and smooth shoes, but no tools.

Where are your clubs?” I asked him.

“1 haven’t any,” he said.Hal Sims; playing in a Coke Add

This seemed to present a problem until his principal backer bought him a brand new matched set from the pro which cost more than $100. After some preliminaries, we were ready to start and Grantland Rice had been accepted as the referee. The first hole was a dog leg, par five, and Aylesworth hit a nice drive the first time he swung at the ball about 160 yards off into the rough.

Culbertson got up on the tee and with me eye on the photogirapher, whiffed five times. His manager claimed these were practice shots, but I argued no one ever grunted when he took a practice swing. Rice, being afraid the match might end right there by losing both Cully and his backer as starters, ruled that three would count as warmups and two as genuine.

Our man conducted himself like a champion and won the first hole with a 15 against Culbertson’s 27. However, while off in the rough Deac did kick his ball a little which brought an admonition and sound suggestion from Sims in rather, strong language which cannot be repeated here.

He said something like this, “Don’t do that, you fool. You can beat this guy without cheating.” The match was never what you might call nip and tuck for, at the end of nine holes, Culbertson was seven down and had had 128 strokes, according to the official count. His hands were covered with blisters, and so sore he could hardly lift a golt club let alone swing it, and his stockings had dropped down around the tops of his shoes. He was too tired to pull them up.

To make what ought to be a short storm, both Culbertson and the oil tycoon threw in the sponge and we all collect our money. No one demanded is saliva test for our man to see whether he was doped. It was a few days later I saw the bridge expert, and I started to sympathise with him.

“It’s too bad you didn’t do better, but wait for next time ” I said encouragingly.

“There aint going to be any next time,” he answered firmly. “I didn’t do so badly; I sold the golf clubs to Sims for $15.


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