Imagine a collection of short stories, all interrelated, based on the people and the golfers in the small town of Persimmon Pines. Wait! You don't have to imagine! That's because, it's right here waiting for you to read every week. Think of Golf Beat as a weekly newspaper (The Persimmon Pines Times) which chronicles the events and people in Traylor County. It might start with golf...but, it always ends up being about the people. I hope you enjoy the stories. If you do, please share!
Winning and Losing...Mostly Losing
When he hit the shot, Boris Knightly knew it felt good. The Assistant Manager of Nails and Screws at Hairspitter Hardware smiles as he remembers his tee shot at the 12th hole at Valley Heights Country Club. “I felt that sweet ‘thwack’ of nothing on the club face. Duckie (Richard Waddlemore of Pesterville) yelled ‘It’s goin’ in!’ I couldn’t believe it.” Who would believe that this 18 handicapper could knock it in on a 289 yard, uphill, par 3? Local pros agree, it’s the most difficult par 3 in Traylor County.
Knightly was playing in a foursome with Waddlemore, Red Isenpayne and Chockasoutauk Trail Golf Course owner Arnie Potts. He remembers the moment after: “They all went nuts. I was in shock.” Boris takes a deep breath and smiles. But, even as he does, the tide of emotions swing. He looks into the distance. “Then, Red let go with: ‘You just won a car!’”
"A car," does not quite do it justice. What Mr. Knightly, who lives in Alby Dam, put a claim on was a brand new BMW M3 Sedan. He shakes his head slowly. A smile crosses his lips. “I couldn’t believe it. I mean, I drive a ’71 Opel. I’ve wanted a BMW since I was old enough to start tying the arms of my sweater around my neck."
By all accounts, the giddy Golfer ran to the green, grabbed his ball out of the hole and showed it to Tournament Official Spunk Drooley, brother of former 3 time winner of the Custerd Cup, Stump Drooley. Drooley remembers the moment well. “Yep, I saw it go straight in the hole. Once again, I was close to someone who won something big - but it wasn’t me. It’s never me. My brother - oh, he’s the greatest thing since brown underwear - but, me? I’m the other Drooley - the one who gets to watch other people do things. I’m happy for the guy. I’m glad he won that car. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve nothin’.”
If this were the whole story, this Reporter probably wouldn’t be writing it. Too easy. No conflict. However, in a world where opinions - not facts - often carry the day, a dispute is now raging over whether a car was truly won - and who is providing it. That conflict, and the need to have something to write about this week, led us to the office of local insurance legend, Buddy Murgler who lays out the brewing controversy in simple terms. “It’s a fact a high-end BMW was parked just off the 12th green next to a sign reading, Hit a hole in one - Win this car. But, in myopinion, it's not as simple as that.”
I am invited to have a seat in front of the electric fireplace in Murgler’s longtime office in the Ponce de Leon building on Plunkerton Avenue Extension. As I sit, I point out that, to most people, it is as simple as that. “The sign says ‘Win this car.’”
The Insurance Pro flashes something between a smile and a smirk. He stands and goes to the sink in the bathroom just behind his desk to begin mixing warm tap water with Sanka. "You newspaper guys like it strong,” he asks as he checks his tie in the mirror before returning to his desk with two cups of "Joe" - as he calls them. The Sanka seems to have separated into a
brownish liquid and some, as yet, undissolved decaffeinated flecks which float on the surface. He takes a long, loud sip. A thin layer of Sanka adheres to Buddy's mustache. He loosens his tie and leans back in a wooden office chair that was new when his father, Larsen E. Murgler, opened this office in 1947.
"First off, I want everyone to know I'm not the bad guy here. I mean, I'm doin' everything I can to insure everyone's happy and nobody goes to jail." (Traylor County Prosecutor, Duke Windsor has indicated somebody might be spending some time behind bars.) Murgler leans forward and bangs his mug on the desk for emphasis. ”I do these hole-in-one cars to be the good guy. I think it's good to give people hope.” He grabs an envelope from a stack of unread mail and blots at the Sanka that just sloshed onto his desk calendar. “I give people a little bit of excitement. I tell 'em - if you hit a hole in one, you win a car. It's a good thing to say. That's how I see it. I'm just being nice. I mean, there's a difference between being nice - and being serious about something, right? I mean, the way I look at it - I was taken out of context. It's not what it looks like."
Murgler must see the confusion on this Reporter’s face. He quickly begins connecting the dots for me. "First off, that hole is way too long and difficult for a drunken amateur on a local Monday tournament to even hit the green; let alone have it go in the hole. That's not fair to me, or any other insurance guy. Second, I'm not the guy providing a car. I mean, everybody knows there's only one car in town like it - and it's owned by my friend, Reggie Sputz."
This is undeniably true. Anyone reading the Persimmon Pines Times Police Blotter knows Mr. Sputz has been stopped and issued multiple warnings for excessive speed in his BMW M3. That fact did not answer the question: "Why did you offer that car as the prize?"
Murgler turns his gaze past the paneling, through the dusty venetian blinds, to Plunkerton Ave Extension. "Well, it wasn't. I mean, I didn't offer it at all. Actually, if you read the fine print of our agreement, it was Reggie who put his car up as a prize. And, now he's all like 'it's not fair, man!' I can't believe he didn't read the fine print. That's not on me. Like I said, I’m not the bad guy here.”
It’s now plain to see this story is more twisted and confused than it seemed. I ask the man who is insuring my Mother's home for a deeper explanation. "Okay, so I'll be honest with you. As an Independent Insurance Agent, I have access to all the best policies around. So, it’s not a problem to get a hole-in-one policy. But, after, like, 20 years of selling these things to tournaments - and never once seeing anyone actually collect - I thought the best idea was to take the money for the premium and just do it myself. It cut out the middle man! And, until this happened, I never had to pay off. And, I still don't. Like I said, it's in the fine print. You really need to talk to Reggie. He's the bad guy. Not me."
With a deadline looming, and a desire to find justice, or at least a BMW for Boris Knightly, the next stop in our efforts to unravel this story pointed to Reggie Sputz. We left the closed venetian blinds and musty smells of the insurance office and headed down Lower Center Avenue to the upper end of Valley Road.
The Sputz mansion, is adjacent to Valley Heights Country Club’s 14th hole. It is located in a cluster of eight mansions built by Sputz’s father-in-law, Hoary Demott, patriarch of the Demott family of persimmon-based industries. The 100 acre family compound, borders the Country
Club along the 10th, 12th and 14th and 16th holes. It represents a collection of homes Demott built for himself, then sold to family members whenever he remarried.
I recognize the Guard at the gate as Avery Dundle, the former Business Manager at Plunker Falls Golf, Tennis and Gun Club. He waves me through without really checking to see who is in my car...very much like he reportedly approved all the expenses reported by the now imprisoned former General Manager at PFGTGC, Ferk Wiley.
Since I called ahead, Reggie Sputz greets me on his circular drive, in front of his three story Colonial. The prize car is parked near the front door. I can’t help but notice that there’s a boot on the front left wheel. “This is what happens when lawyers get involved,” says Mr. Sputz as he takes a quick puff on an electronic cigarette.
As we talk, it’s clear Reggie is well aware of the facts. “My lawyer talked to the Knightly guy’s lawyer and, I mean, I can’t believe they want to take my car like that. I get that there’s fine print. And, that maybe I should have read it. But, come on. I was doing a favor for a guy who paid me $500 for my time. I didn’t do anything wrong. My wife (Crustacea Demott-Dongler-Sputz) is always on me about earning extra money. I mean, she’s always complaining about me sucking off her trust fund.” He leans against the BMW and takes a quick swig from his Perrier bottle. “This is off the record, right?”
Before this Reporter can answer, Sputz continues. “So, anyway, yes, I signed the paper with the fine print. Yes, that’s my car described in the fine print. But, NO, I’m not giving it to some idiot who happened to hit an impossible shot at a Monday charity tournament.” He puts away his electronic cigarette and pulls a real one from behind his ear. “I was so close to giving up smoking. If you see my lawyer, ask him how I get that (pointing to the boot on the front left) off my car.”
As stories like this often do, we wound up our investigation in an attorney’s office. Or, to be more accurate, we were escorted to the conference room at the offices of Attorneys Morris Gaylock and Jules Weiner. Their firm represents Sputz and his extended Demott family.
Attorney Weiner, whose wife Leeto is a championship golfer of local renown, takes a seat at the far end of the conference room table. “Before we start, I want to be sure we understand what is going on here. This is not about right and wrong. This isn’t about being fair to one side or the other. This isn’t about getting your due. This is about the law.”
“But,” this Reporter interjected, “Reggie told me he signed the contract.”
“We have handwriting experts who will testify that the signature is illegible and likely NOT that of our client. And, if you see him. Tell him to stop talking to you. He said it off the record, right?” Following my answer to that question, I was escorted out of the conference room and into the street.
We reached out to Boris Knightly to see what his attorney was doing about the situation. He told us he was waiting to hear from the County Public Defender’s office. When I pointed out that since he was not accused of a crime, he would not be able to utilize their services, Knightly replied. “They’re the only lawyers I’ve ever worked with.”
For those who are wondering if and when this story will have an outcome, Attorney Weiner offered this off-the-record estimate: “I’m pretty sure, once next year’s model of the M3 is available, Reggie will be happy to give up his old car...for the remaining payments on the lease.”
As this story goes to press, reports are Mr. Knightly has untied the sweater from around his neck, stopped wearing BMW, leather driving gloves and continues looking for a starter and gear shift knob for his ’71 Opel.
Larry Caringer has been writing humor for broadcast for a long time. Now, he's writing it for you. The stories, here, are from a collection of short stories from his book "Golf Beat: A Year in the Life of Persimmon Pines."