TEED-OFF GOLFERS CAN’T “LEAF” WELL ENOUGH ALONE
from the book Golf Beat: A Year in the Live of Persimmon Pines
by Larry Caringer
Angra Buttshugg-Demott thought she knew her Golf Etiquette and Rules. That’s why, after she recently hit her ball into a large pile of leaves twelve feet to the right of the third tee on Valley Heights Country Club’s Blue Course, she announced that, even though the ball could not be found, she would play another from the approximate spot where the original ball entered without a penalty.
Problem was, the leaf pile was adjacent to the out-of-bounds stakes which run along the property line of the stately home owned by Rex Usall, former local Champion Golfer. Rex happened to be at home at the time and was watching some hired help clean up fallen leaf debris from his yard. Under his supervision, they were depositing the leaves just over the property line in a convenient spot off the 3rd tee where Golf Course workers would see it and pick it up quickly, thereby saving Rex from having to pay for costly removal. This is how he came to be close enough to overhear Mrs. Buttshugg-Demott’s declaration of a penalty-free shot.
Being an upstanding citizen and former outstanding golfer, Usall stepped from behind the tree where he and his workers had secreted themselves and tendered his opinion for everyone in the playing group to hear.
“You can’t do that. The ball might be out of bounds. You must find and identify your ball or hit another from the tee with a stroke and distance penalty.”
Witnesses to the event say a decided chill filled the air. Usall and Buttshugg-Demott found themselves in, according to a player in the foursome, “a stare-down lasting in the neighborhood of twelve minutes.”
Some who are less educated in the ways of golfers might say the fact that Buttshugg-Demott and Usall are currently locked in a nasty multi-million dollar legal battle could have been a complicating factor in the confrontation.
For readers who have not perused the Financial Section lately, the lawsuit was brought by Buttshugg-Demott and her current husband, Hoary Demott, against Sputz and Sputz, financial advisors in general, and Rex Usall, Senior Financial Advisor in particular.
But those who know Rex Usall understand his intent has always been to make sure the rules of The Game are respected and upheld. His integrity is held in the highest regard by anyone who has never used him as a financial consultant. He is well-known as a champion amateur golfer who once won the Traylor County Area Grand Slam of Golf , which includes The Custard Cup, The Francona, The Dickster Open, and The Woodstone.
In fact, he won three of the tournaments that year based on allegations of rules violations he raised against competitors who finished ahead of him. As Usall said after one of these wins: “I don’t write the rules. I just use ’em.”
That said, reports from bystanders who were present at the time say it seemed obvious that, champion golfer that he is, Usall had only the interest of fair play in mind when he tried to be helpful by intervening in that particular ladies’ four-ball match.
What happened next seems to be in dispute. The only fair way to report this story seems to be to start with the official police report. It indicates that Buttshugg-Demott, after the stare-down with Usall, thanked him and continued looking for her golf ball. However, after Usall turned to go back into his yard, he reported he saw the ball just outside the out-of-bounds stakes under some leaves.
The police report states that Buttshugg-Demott felt that Usall’s reporting of the discovery seemed “a little too gleeful.” So, instead of a “thank you,” she responded by flinging her three wood at Usall, hitting him in the ankle and causing him to fall on the ball.
On this next point, all agree: When Usall landed on the ball it squirted sideways – ending up clearly in bounds and on a good lie.
As the former Local Grand Slam Winner said from his doctor’s office during a check up on his cracked ankle: “If the ball is moved by an outside agent, it is considered ‘rub of the green,’ and play should continue from that point. Ms. Buttshugg-Demott was entitled to play from that point without penalty.”
Buttshugg-Demott’s Attorney, Thermal Goude, said his client would have no comment on the story. He did, however refute the charge that his client cracked Usall’s ankle with her three wood. “And, even if she did,” Goude told this reporter, “he had it coming. He took my client’s money against her wishes and invested it in a long-term investment that meant she couldn’t get at it right away. It made her angry.”
I asked Goude if that was any reason to throw the three wood. He said that Ms. Buttshugg-Demott was simply, “acting out. She’s very young. Her husband’s very old. She quite often feels as if she’s being treated like a little girl. I think that’s partly because of the way Mr. Demott makes her dress in those braids and all.”
Whatever the cause of the sudden angry outburst, it has resulted in a lawsuit by Usall against Buttshugg-Demott that’s even bigger than the one she filed against him.
But in this world of high finance, none of that seems to matter right now. While she won’t talk about the lawsuits or assault, Buttshugg-Demott did grant me a quote about the rest of her day on the Golf Course.
“Thanks to the ‘outside agent’ ruling on my ball, I was able to play without a penalty – and made a bogey – which made me really happy. I got mad right after that, though, the more I thought about things. None of this would have happened if all those leaves hadn’t been piled up right there in that odd place beside the tee. So I called Marge Wilburite, the General Manager, and told her to fire everybody on the Grounds Crew.”
Later that day, fourteen people filed for unemployment benefits from Valley Heights CC.
I contacted Usall by phone for his perspective on this aspect of the story. His reply was quick and succinct. “The Rules of Golf are clear and leave little room for interpretation. However, the rules of life are less well defined. It is in these gray areas that life’s winners and losers are often determined.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
There was a long pause, then a sigh on the other end. “There are now more leaves than ever beside the third tee. And now there’s no one left to pick ’em up and get rid of ’em.”