Those of us who have read Sports Illustrated most of our adult lives had a habit of picking up the current issue and immediately turning to the back page to read Rick Reilly’s column. Rick had a way of turning a phrase on the pressing sports issues of the day like no one in the business. Cynical, funny, insightful and always entertaining.
In his book, Missing Links, Reilly spins a hilarious tale of a bunch of middle-class slackers in Boston who “wasted their youth” playing and gambling every day at “possibly the worst golf course in America”, a place he called Ponkaquoque Municipal Course and Deli. The food was bad, but the golf course was worse.
“It was one of the great mysteries of life why grown men would actually arrive at 4 a.m. to put their little golf balls in a rusty old pipe…and then go back and sleep in their cars, just to play a golf course at eight that would have a hard time making Best of Chernobyl”.
The gambling tales of the Chops who played at Ponky are what makes this worth reading. Among others they include:
Hoover- He really sucked
Thud- The almost human hearse driver for The Peaceful Rest Mortuary
Crowbar- He was constantly prying himself into any situation
Two-Down- Never lost-as he said “Bets don’t start until I’m two down”.
Stick- The story’s protagonist
Dannie- Old female chop, baseball hat, baggie sweaters but “a cotton eyed Arkansas accent…with a twelve-car-pileup body and a little nose that could’ve hardly made a dent in a cream pie”.
They bet on anything and made up the games as they went along. “Reversals” in which your opponent could tee up your ball, turn around, and hit it as far in the opposite direction as he could. “Alohas” where you double everything on 18. “Murphys” where once every 9 holes your opponent could pick up your ball and place it anywhere within two club lengths of where it lays. “It is very discouraging , indeed, to be just about to hit the bejesus out of your drive and than have somebody holler, “Murphy” and walk over and deposit your ball in a ball washer”.
Now Ponky sat adjacent to The Mayflower Club which was “only the finest, snootiest, private, white, sperm-dollar country club on the eastern seaboard”. It was full of blue blood members with numerals in their names who drove Bentleys and Jaguars into “a kind of green-and-blue Protestant Paradise”.
Which gets us to “The Bet”.
You see The Bet is what really changed it all at Ponky turned the place upside-down and shook out all of the loose change. It came about when three of the Chops-Two-Down, Dannie, and Stick- decided the ultimate challenge would be to see who could be first person to finagle their way into play the Mayflower Club. $1,000 a man, winner take all. Clearly this was to be a no-holds barred, anything goes competition and what unfolds is a series of tales of intrigue and woe as the three of them seek to capture the ultimate Ponky Prize.
Once you start reading this book you won’t be able to put it down, except to catch your breath between sessions of uncontrollable laughter. It is Rick Reilly at his best…..frat house humor…..pure entertainment.
Rick Reilly (1996)