Gambling on the Golf Course

It was my junior year at the University of Tennessee. I was playing the best golf of my career and one Sunday I went to practice at Pine Lakes golf course. Pine Lakes was a public course with a driving range that we were able to use any time we wanted to. The pro and owner, Ray Franklin was a Southern boy who used to bea great player in his day, until he got into a car wreck that ended his career. He would always tell us stories that seemed so astonishing that I would have bet he was fabricating them, but I knew better.

Anyway, I was on the driving range in the afternoon working on some short irons when this scruffy looking guy approaches me and asked, “Are you on the Tennessee golf team, boy?” I smiled and said “Yes I am.” It was pretty obvious since I had an orange Tennessee golf bag plus I had a white golf shirt that had Tennessee Golf printed on it. I was wondering what the hell this guy wanted.

He extended out his hand and introduced himself as Bill White. I told him my name and the next question he asked almost floored me. He looked me in the eye and said, “Do you want to play me for some money”? I stopped for awhile and thought to myself, hey, you can certainly beat this guy, go for it. So I told Bill, sure, I’ll play you for some money.

We stood on the first tee and made the bet. We were playing a twenty dollar Nassau with automatic two down presses and one down presses when asked, plus I had to give him seven shots each nine according to the handicap from the scorecard. Well, I had no idea what I was in store for. He was kicking my butt, because he was a gambler and knew the course pretty well and pressed every time he was one down when the next hole was a stroke hole.

I was standing on the seventeenth hole, down two hundred and forty dollars, thinking to myself, what am I going to do. I only had thirty dollars in my pocket and my checking account probably had another hundred in it. The only thing I had was my father’s 1972 Buick LeSabre. I certainly was in a bind, so what did I do, I asked if he would play me the last two holes for three hundred dollars. Plus I had to give him one stroke. I know I was stupid, risking my dad’s car, but I had no choice. I some how birdied the seventeenth hole and Bill made a bogey so we headed up the eighteenth with more money on the line than I ever dreamed of. I hit my tee shot on the short 395 yard par four down the right side of the fairway about 275. Bill hit his normal drive, 240 down the middle. He put his second shot just short of the green with an apparently easy chip shot left. I got to my ball and pulled out a nine iron and was so nervous that I almost couldn’t pull the trigger. I somehow kept thinking about losing my dad’s car. I looked at the pin placement and slowly took the club back and tried to focus on the flag.

Well, somehow I made one of the best swings of my life, the ball landed ten feet past the pin and since it was into the wind and I had a lot of juice on the shot, it spun back to within two feet of the hole. I turned to Bill and smiled, he also smiled and said, “Helluva Shot”

I made birdie and he paid me the sixty bucks. I was overcome with a sense of relief. He asked me what I was doing later that night? I told him that I had a date. He handed me his business card and told to stop at his restaurant for dinner. The business card said ‘Cherokee Supper Club’.

So I pick up Tammy at 6 o’clock and told her we were going to a new place for dinner. We arrived at Bill’s restaurant at 6:30 and when we got to the door, it was locked with rusted iron gates. I pressed the buzzer and this guy who looked like Lurch from the Adams Family show opened the door and said, “What do you two want?” I told him we were guests of Bill and he immediately opened the door.

We were seated in the corner of the place and were listening to a Country band playing on stage. All of a sudden, Bill strolls to our table and I almost didn’t even recognize him. He was dressed in a white suit, white lizard cowboy boots and a white hat. He sat down and told us that he would order dinner for us. He got up and left. I told Tammy that I was certain that this dinner would probably cost me a couple hundred dollars. Fifteen minutes later our dinner arrived, Filets and Lobster and a bottle of French wine. It was pretty amazing for a college date. After the wonderful dinner, Bill came back to our table and asked if we were pleased with the food and service. I told him everything was great, but that we needed our check, since there were only a few people in his place listening to the band. Bill smiled and told me that dinner was on the house.

I thanked him and asked, “Bill, I don’t want to sound strange, but you have a six member band, three bartenders, four waitresses and you have only a few people in here, how the hell do you make any money?” Bill stopped for a moment, looked me in the eye and said, “I thought you would ask me that, follow me!” We got up from the table and he took me through a long hallway and opened a door. My eyes almost popped out of my head, he had a full-fledged casino right in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I was laughing so hard. I stayed there till three in the morning playing blackjack. I became a member and went there every time I had a few extra dollars. Bill became a great supporter of the golf team and even threw a party for the entire golf team and had ten pounds of shrimp and steaks for everyone.

Bill, if you are out there and happen to read this, Thank You. I will never forget the Cherokee Supper Club.

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