There are a lot of great golf stories. There are even some true golf stories. (As contrasted with tennis – have you ever heard a great tennis story?) Thanks to my good friend, Lewis Lapham, I’m able to share this wonderful anecdote involving his grandfather, Cypress Point, and an incident involving the rules of golf.
Roger Lapham, onetime mayor of San Francisco, was a founder and president of the Cypress Point Club, one of the treasures in the golfing world. Golf and gambling were Roger’s passion. Grandson Lewis profiled him and the founding of Cypress Point in an entertaining piece in the June issue of Golf Digest. What wasn’t included in the Golf Digest article was the following, as told by Lewis:
“The incident in question dates from the early years of the Great Depression, my grandfather playing a four-ball match for what at the time was a very heavy stake -- $10,000 Nassau, no putts conceded. The game reached the eighteenth hole all even, the bet on the front nine added to the bet on the back nine. Grandfather’s partner played his drive into the trees to the right of the fairway, his next shot across the fairway into the trees on the left, where it was deemed irretrievably lost. Both opponents reached the green with their second shots, leaving themselves long putts but odds-on to get down in two.
“Roger Lapham meanwhile had hit his approach into the deep bunker below and to the left of the green, the ball so deeply buried in the sand that it was barely visible. Mindful of the authority vested in him as the president of the club, he studied the lie for a duly diligent period of time before deciding to piss on it.
“He did so thoughtfully and deliberately, a resourceful executive solving a problem as well as expressing an opinion. The providential appearance of casual water he construed as a granting of relief from an extraneous hazard. Placing his ball elsewhere in the bunker, he played it within three feet of the pin.
“The stroke unnerved his two opponents, each of whom three-putted for a bogey five. Grandfather holed the par. His partner heartily congratulated him on having won the match, a result that he endorsed, as did both caddies and five of the six club members who had followed the play from the fifteenth tee.
“Not having been present at the time I can only guess at both the voicing and the nature of the protest. I’ve been told that although the ruling was subsequently upheld on appeal to the board of governors, the dispute, accompanied by strenuous argument and wild gesture, was carried first into the locker room, then to the clubhouse and bar. Strong drink was called for; so were dice and cards. Somehow a settlement was reached, the club rules regarding casual water amended to thereafter specify its source and point of origin.”