Rolling the Dice: The art of waging hard-earned money on golf

There’s something to be said for paying rent in Manhattan and concurrently wagering hard-earned money on sports. That “something” usually sounds similar to, “Are you crazy?”

While that reaction might seem warranted, I’ll gladly keep my proverbial earmuffs on, because I’m not listening.

Why? Because I’m a golf nut, the kind who interviews a professional during the day and jets off to the nearest twilight round that evening. The same type who dashes around 18 Sunday morning holes before racing home to watch the pros finish theirs on TV. I am a golf nut, and what I lack in pin-seeking pride, I make up for in commitment.

Golf nuts like me know all kinds of professional players in the field. They know who has played well in the last month and who is struggling to maintain form. They see “D. Lee” on the leaderboard and show off by knowing it is not Dan Lee, but actually Danny Lee, instead. Listen up: If you are a golf nut, please keep your earmuffs on, too, because gambling on professional golf was made for you.

As a sport, golf is the unique beast that lets its brightest stars shine brilliantly, while also watching some of its minor characters – we’ll call them shooting stars – quickly pop into view before fading away. It brings once-thought-impossible stories to life on a monthly basis.

It allows the Cleveland Browns-equivalent of professional golf a respectable chance at winning on golf’s biggest stage. Take South African golfer Branden Grace as the telling example.

Just days before last month’s U.S. Open began at Chambers Bay in western Washington, odds makers had the ever-popular Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth as the favorites to claim the trophy at the end of the weekend. Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose were next on the list. While Spieth ended up winning the tournament, it was Grace who gave him as good a test as any player in the field.

Lowly Grace, then ranked 40th in the world, was given 150-1 odds to win the United States Open. No sane person would jump at those odds, but golf nuts are not always sane.

A golf nut would have recognized that Grace was bagging top 10 performances in the two months since the Masters in April. Just one bad round kept him from three consecutive top 25 finishes.

A golf nut would have known that Chambers Bay, this untamed, wildly unknown golf course would be won by a player who could scramble well from its thick fescue rough and hit the ball far enough to position themselves for great birdie chances on the gigantic slab of land. Furthermore, a golf nut would have figured a disheveled course that very few pros had played prior to 2015 might just prove to crown a random champion after four grueling rounds in summer heat.

In hindsight, some golf nut would have known Brandan Grace and his exorbitant odds were worth the $5 flyer bet. In the end, he essentially fell one sprayed drive away from a playoff for the U.S. Open. Admittedly, I was not that golf nut two weeks ago.

Instead, I was the golf nut who grabbed Louis Oosthuizen’s 60/1 odds and sat, wearing away my fingernails, watching him finish one stroke back of Spieth. With a little homework garnered from a golf nut living and breathing the golf nut life, Oosthuizen proved a clever pick. The lesson is for golf nuts to roll the dice, just as we do approaching every tricky shot from a fairway bunker over a water-skirted green.

If it doesn’t positively affect the checking account, then so be it. Tough luck this time. One thing definitely happens during the typical golf nut viewing of the event.

You (somehow) had more fun.