In an effort to remove ourselves from quarantine and experience the great outdoors — and to satisfy a need for a little betting action — three VSiN representatives and a local bookmaker took to the links recently for a game of golf.
The first Jack Nicklaus design in the state, one of the top five courses in Nevada and VSiN sponsor SouthShore Country Club was the venue chosen for our escape and the money match. Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill U.S., and I arrived first. VSiN’s executive producer, Brian Rogers, was next to show up. Being the bookmaker he is, Bogdanovich made the number -135 that our fourth player, VSiN senior editor Matt Youmans, would arrive knocking down the remains of a fast-food meal. The first bet of the afternoon was a loser, as Youmans showed up with nothing but his clubs, his game face and an appreciation for the golf course. “The course is an unforgettable layout,” Youmans said. “It’s no doubt one of the top five in Nevada. The 10th and 11th holes kick off a spectacular back nine.”
On the first tee, it was agreed that the game would be carryover skins for two dots per and one dot for any junk that was converted — birdies, bullets, sandies, rockies, sharkies, barkies and greenies on the par-3s.
The first hole at SouthShore is a downhill par-5, and Bogdanovich, a steady player, uncorked a drive right down the middle, leaving himself just 250 yards from reaching the green in two. He then executed a 3-wood beautifully and left himself just short of the putting surface. Bogdanovich made his birdie and took the early lead with the skin and an additional speck for the birdie. Successful golfers and bookmakers alike need to have an even keel, as per Bogdanovich. “I was just so happy to be out in the fresh air and sunlight I didn’t even realize we had a match going,” he said.
After three holes, Bogdanovich had taken all three skins, and I told Rogers and Youmans “The House” was beating us again. Feeling the pressure not to fall further behind, I birdied the par-3 fourth with a shot to about 8 feet from the pin and made my way onto the scoreboard. Rogers took his first two skins with a par on the sixth hole. Continuing my hot play on the par-3s, I was able to stuff another one tight on No. 8, converting another birdie to put a few more dots by my name on the scorecard, then followed with a par on the ninth hole to end the front nine with three more skins.
After nine holes, I led the way with four skins and two dots, shooting 39. Bogdanovich had three skins and a dot after shooting 45. Rogers shot 49 on the front but still had two skins to his name. Youmans shot 45 but was shooting blanks on the betting scoreboard. We eased his pain at the turn with a couple of beverages, one of the best char-grilled hot dogs one will ever have and some french fries worthy of high praise.
Arriving at the 10th hole, Youmans, being the sharp gambler he is, introduced the equalizer in hopes of quelling my hot start in the form of a shot of whiskey. His gamble paid off, as I played the next four holes in 6 over par. As part of my competitors’ gamesmanship, all three referred to me all day as “The Kid” because that is what is embroidered on my especially large Titleist Staff bag given to me over 20 years ago when I worked at a local golf course and had the youthful looks of about a 12-year-old.
Meanwhile, "The House" was at it again. He birdied the first two holes on the back side and took back the lead in the money game. Rogers snagged a couple more skins on the par-5 13th hole and was back in the hunt, but Bogdanovich came right back on No. 14 with his fourth birdie of the day, this time a deuce on a par-3 that also included a bullet (a putt holed for par or better that is longer than the flagstick) and a greenie for a total haul of five dots on the hole. Just over halfway through the back side, Bogdanovich was rebounding nicely from his front-nine 45, sitting at 1 under par through five holes.
With four holes left, Bogdanovich was leading the way with six skins and six dots, a four-point advantage over me and eight over Rogers. Plotting his final charge, Youmans hit the 15th tee box with a blank slate in the money game. He made an excellent bogey on this, the fourth-hardest hole on the course, but had to settle for a push as the hole was halved with two additional bogeys.
It was on to the par-3 16th hole, one of the finest short holes one will ever see at about 200 yards and over a canyon. The final three holes at SouthShore begin the stretch noted in the VSiN commercial as to where one may be “lucky enough to spot the bighorn sheep that have become frequent spectators on the course’s spectacular finishing holes.”
On this day at 16, a heavy wind was playing directly into us. A difficult shot had become an even stiffer challenge. “I was not crazy about gambling on the game since I had played only twice in the previous 18 months, but Kannon made it low stakes,” Youmans noted.
Youmans pulled his shot left and up into the rocky hill that overlooks the left side of the green. Rogers smoked a 4-iron and still wound up short in the front-right sand bunker. Bogdanovich hammered a low-boring 3-wood that ended up pin-high but off the green left. One of my favorite clubs, which I’m not nearly good enough to hit anymore, made its way out of my bag for a go at this monster. I ripped a butter knife (2-iron) not quite flush but good enough to get it within a few feet of the green — unfortunately, not quite good enough to qualify as a greenie. Looking much like one of those bighorn sheep, Youmans hit a remarkable recovery shot from behind a bush and halfway up the side of the mountain, reaching the putting surface 25 feet from the cup, still with a chance for par. Rogers got out of the sand with a terrific shot to about 6 feet. I putted from off the green to about 2 1/2 feet and was graciously given my par. On one of the most dramatic holes on the course, we all made some great shots. Rogers added a dot with a sandy, and the skins ended up carrying over.
After another push, we made our way to the elevated tee box on No. 18 with four skins now at stake. With Youmans still not on the scoreboard, I offered him the opportunity for an “aloha press,” which is a double-or-nothing bet, giving him the chance to come away unscathed. Win the hole and he owes nothing, but lose the hole and he’d owe everyone double what he was already down. Still nursing an injured elbow, Youmans declined risking further losses. The hole ended in yet another tie, and the final skins available went unclaimed.
The bookmaker wins again. Bogdanovich came out on top, edging me and Rogers. In the parking lot, Youmans went to his wallet and took care of his losses quickly and honorably. “The Kid dominated on the front, and Bogdanovich came out looking like the Golden Bear on the back,” Youmans said.
Classy, witty and sharp, Bogdanovich summed it up nicely: "Skins were won, birdies were made and holes were halved. The best thing is nobody got taxed real bad and we had an incredible day in very sober times.”