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Golfers putting for major dough at Major Series of Putting

Updated November 1, 2017 - 5:31 pm

Bobby Locke was a golf pro from South Africa whose nicknames were “Old Baggy Pants” and “Old Muffin Face.” He also coined the expression “Drive for show, putt for dough.”

That surely would have endeared him to the club pros and average Joes who are putting for dough — a lot of dough — at the Major Series of Putting through Sunday at an empty lot behind Planet Hollywood that is now a magnificent golf course in miniature.

Alas, there are no oscillating windmills to mess with one’s concentration. The temporary synthetic course also lacks a giraffe hole. But every seven minutes a monorail train goes whooshing by above the back nine. It’s not exactly freight trains rumbling on Chambers Bay during the U.S. Open, but it’s still pretty cool.

On Wednesday, the big dough wouldn’t be on the line until after sunset. By noon, a lot of club pros and average Joes already were on the course practicing.

Some wore football jerseys and hockey T-shirts. Others sported plaid shirts or striped pants. Some wore both. One or two were dressed like the PGA pros who were teeing it up across town at the Shriners Open.

Practice putts were bended toward holes in sweeping arcs, in the manner of a Clayton Kershaw curveball. Invariably the dimpled Titleists and Maxflis and one or two golf balls painted blue or green would slide beyond the hole. The practice putters took out notebooks and scribbled something that might help them win the big dough after sunset.

One of the earliest to arrive was 66-year-old John Ambrose of Jefferson, Ohio. He was dressed as a real golfer. Until he retired in 2013, his occupation was lining up 7s — not at a hotel-casino, but at a cruising altitude of 43,000 feet.

Pilot putter

John Ambrose was a commercial airline pilot, flying 777s to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong for Continental Airlines before and during its merger with United.

Now he has designed a putter called the L2 MOI MAXX.

It looks nothing like the vintage Billy Baroo model wielded by Judge Smails in “Caddyshack.”

Like a 777, it’s ponderous, weighing in at 620 grams. It has a fat grip and a bigger-than-normal sweet spot. Its cruising altitude probably won’t be known until somebody such as John Daly starts using one, and flings it into a lake after three-putting at the John Deere Classic.

“When you fly a plane, you learn a lot about balance stability, alignment, depth perception, eye-hand coordination, binocular vision — all things you should be doing on a putting green,” retired Capt. Ambrose said about how he got into designing putters.

He said when one lands an airplane, the end of the runway is like a distant cup on the putting green. There’s a lot happening in one’s peripheral vision. On the runway, it’s other airplanes. On the golf course, it might be a rowdy gallery. At O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and at the Phoenix Open, the distractions are almost limitless.

So if Sully Sullenberger were to enter Sunday’s High Roller Invitational, he’d might be the man to beat, especially if a water hazard were dropped into the middle of the back nine.

Wheels up, wheels down. Drive for show, putt for dough.

If Old Baggy Pants were still alive, he’d probably make a lot of dough at the Major Series of Putting. He might also remind the other players never to fly coach with John Daly after he misses the cut.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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