Blood, Sweat, and Beers — Parring the Course with Gary Thompson
Photo Caption: Gary Thompson’s bloody right leg on the golf course at Angel Park.
When I grow up, I want to be Gary Thompson.
At the very least, I want to be as much like him as I can (aside from his horribly misguided political views).
Gary has spent nearly a lifetime working mostly in the shadows, which is a damn shame because he usually outshines just about everyone he’s around. The current corporate spokesman for Caesars Entertainment and former Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper never quite lets on all the interesting things he’s done or those he knows on a first-name basis — which includes just about everyone who’s anyone in the casino business or hoists political power in Nevada.
So, who is Gary Thompson? Born and raised in Connecticut, this is a man who served in the military and was once stationed in Pakistan during the height of the Cold War. He worked in a high-powered New York City public relations firm for many years. Gary ultimately relocated to Las Vegas where he ran the day-to-day operations of the city’s newspaper. In fact, Gary was at the forefront of local media during what was arguably the most interesting era of Las Vegas and its rich and colorful history. After that, Gary went to work as the head of PR for Harrah’s Entertainment, which acquired control of the World Series of Poker in 2004. A lifelong poker enthusiast, Gary assumed the pivotal role as head of communications for the WSOP for a few years, which is when we worked closely together. But he was sorely missed back at the highest levels. Gary proved so indispensable to CEO Gary Loveman that he was asked to return to his former high-profile position as the primary spokesman for the world’s largest gaming company. Today, when you read an official statement from Caesars Entertainment somewhere in the media, it’s usually Gary who gets quoted.
Gary has also experienced some serious challenges and setbacks, both personal and professional. Undoubtedly, losing his wife of nearly three decades was his most irreplaceable loss (he now has a wonderful woman in his life named Gina, as well as a daughter). A few years ago, Gary was diagnosed with cancer, which he battled with unwavering bravery and inspiration which is so characteristic of this exceptional man, now in his late 60’s — but who acts and behaves like someone less than half his age. He’s like a fine wine, getting better with the years.
Indeed, Gary has been my mentor for a decade, although the association is sure to make him shiver in horror. Disclaimer: I can assure everyone that I turned out this way despite Gary’s best efforts and good intentions.
That’s Gary, above. Until a few days ago, we’d never played golf together. Which now leads me to wonder — what took this golden moment so long?
My drive out to the Angel Park Golf Course located in Summerlin was filled with questions. I didn’t quite know what to expect from Gary out on the golf course. Aged in his 60’s, a cancer survivor, an unapologetic smoker, a soldier in the Absolut Vodka army, I also knew Gary had gone through serious (is there any other kind?) back surgery a month earlier. For those who haven’t endured back surgery, imagine the worst pain possible throughout your entire body — and then double that.
This weathered and beaten down man was to be my golf partner for the afternoon.
The Thompson-Dalla calvary faced a beastly challenge. We agreed to a golf match (for money, of course) against the beefy Treasure Brothers — comprised of Matt and Tim. They’re built like two tree trunks. Matt used to work as a New York City train engineer. Even today, he’s in great shape and looks like an NFL defensive lineman. His brother Tim now resides in Columbus (Ohio) and was visiting Las Vegas for just a few days. Until we witnessed them both tee off at the first hole, I had no idea both of these “amateur golfers” could drive the ball nearly 300 yards.
So, our match in the desert was underway. A senior corporate executive fresh off back surgery teamed with one of the very worst golfers in Las Vegas (I shot a 132 two weeks earlier — and was PROUD) faced the evil Treasure Brothers in a scramble match, with carryover.
Sounds expensive, doesn’t it?
We should have asked from strokes. Who wouldn’t have made us huge underdogs? We most certainly deserved to get some kind of handicap. But then that wouldn’t make for nearly as interesting a story and final outcome, now would it? Alas, if the two Davids were to somehow defeat the two Goliaths, it would be straight up and on an even playing field.
The earliest indication of our afternoon was encouraging. I knew we might be in very good shape when I laid eyes upon Tim Treasure’s frightful golf bag. He hauled his set of clubs from Ohio all the way to Las Vegas in a green and white bag emblazoned with the official team logo of the “New York Jets” inscribed on the side. Huh? The Jets?
What — was the Chicago Cubs golf bag inside the pro shop not “on sale?”
“I’ve already lost all respect for you, Tim — and I haven’t even known you 90 seconds yet,” I teased. “Who in the fuck would show their face out on a golf course standing next to a New York Jets bag?”
I don’t recall Tim’s reaction at that instant. Perhaps he said something like ‘fuck you,” but I didn’t hear it. Probably a good thing. Here’s a picture of Tim Treasure teeing off below with his New York Jets driver.
Next, it was Matt Treasure’s turn.
Kaboom. Right down the middle.
Matthew moved to Las Vegas about a year ago along with his fiance. We met about 15 years ago playing poker at Foxwoods. Our first encounter was chopping two satellites back-to-back, which led to a drink at the bar (translation — he bought, so I said yes), which ended up as a long friendship.
If there’s such a thing, Treasure’s primary claim to fame in the poker world is finishing in the top thirty in the 2004 WSOP Main Event Championship. Oddly enough, he qualified for his seat that year at PokerStars.com. At the same time Treasure was making his deep run, a running joke at the tournament that year was the very real possibility of the greatest 1-2 name association with a sporting event in history — with “Moneymaker” winning in 2003, followed someone named “Treasure” winning in 2004. But alas, it didn’t quite work out that way. Treasure earned about $4,900,000 in prize money less than the player who won that year — our mutual friend Greg “Fossilman” Raymer — also from Foxwoods lore.
Here’s a look at Matt Treasure addressing the ball (see blow):
Speaking of “addressing the ball,” we’re going to show our ages here.
At one point in the middle of the round, I made some off-the-cuff remark about “addressing the ball.”
In completely unrehearsed unison, the three of them — Gary, Matt, and Tim — all did their very best Art Carney impression — “Hellllooooooooow Baaaaalllll.”
You have to remember the television show called The Honeymooners to get that joke.
The course was packed with wildlife. Birds, ducks, geese, some animal that looked like hamsters with white stripes, and hundreds of rabbits.
Rabbits. Hundreds of them.
They were everywhere. On one green I counted 18 cottontails. Most of them were newborns, like this one:
Which now brings us to our golf match. The Treasures were the rabbits of the bunch. We were hawks. Indeed, the sweetest animals I remember on this fine day were eagles and birdies.
Fuck me silly. You had to be there to believe it. It was like seeing a UFO.
It was unlike anything you could imagine. If someone would have offered me a price that I’d shoot par fucking golf over the course of 18 full holes — without cheating! — I probably would have take out a second (third?) mortgage on my house, that is if I weren’t already so deep underwater.
Our official scorecard read 4, 4, 3, 5, 3, 4, 4, 5, 4 and so on. We birdied three holes. We made 14 pars. We posted one bogey over the entire round!
Yes — and I, me, yours truly, was part of the team that performed this magical miracle.
In the end, we shot an honest 72 — the best round of golf of my life by perhaps 30 stokes.
How the shit did this miracle happen?
Naturally, I carried most of the weight on my shoulders. That is — the weight of horrible shots, lost golf balls, missed two-foot putts, a slew of profanities, and other assorted misery that comes with struggling not to embarrass yourself.
But each and every time I skunked a ball off in the water, or blasted into the sand trap, Gary would ride to the rescue as the Lone Ranger with a pro-level game. He made at least five stellar shots that any PGA player would have taken in a heartbeat. He sank 15 and 20 foot putts with ease. Everything Gary hit went straight, and in. Ding! Everything I hit went left or right, or too short or too far — which hardly mattered. It was like Minnie Mee fucking a porn star. All that mattered was the porn star to make it a thoroughly delicious experience.
Can I pick a golf partner, or what?
Of course, the Treasure Brothers couldn’t believe any of this. A bolt of lightning could have thundered out of the blue sky and they wouldn’t have been any more stunned with the course of events. They were getting humiliated by a shit hacker crippled with a worn out 15-year-old set of $79 clubs from Target, partnered a man who hadn’t played golf in nearly a year, and was just coming off back surgery.
We destroyed the Treasure Brothers. They were our bitches.
In all fairness, they actually played pretty well, shooting somewhere in the mid-80’s. One any other day, I would have lost hundreds of dollars. But when Gary “the Hammer” Thompson was in his groove, nobody else stood a chance.
The scorecards were tallied up. Ours read: Thompson-Dalla — 72.
SEVENTY FUCKING TWO.
Suck it, Savage!
The story wouldn’t be complete (or believable) without at least a few references to one of my favorite subjects — alcohol.
The Treasures tried to lessen the blow of their humiliation by offering the lame excuse they’d emptied five bottles of Malbec (wine) between the two of them during the night before. I’ve seen Matt Treasure blast through some wine before, so that was entirely believable. But hardly an excuse for their lameness.
But my man Gary had his own handicap. Still suffering the aftereffects of his back surgery, Gary self-prescribed his favorite anesthetic — a clear bottle of Absolut. I won’t disclose the exact quantity, but let’s just say for alcohol content I’ll fade Gary’s consumption of intoxicants versus the Treasures’ five-bottle pansy-fest. I entered the course as sober as a Mormon, which was probably part of my problem.
Matt slammed back three Pabst Blue Ribbons while out of the course, which is a shock because I didn’t even know they still made let alone anyone drank the unfathomable piss-water known as “PBR.” I enjoyed three ice cold Heinekens, paid for courtesy of my golf fund — mutipling with compound interest by the hole thanks to the dreadful comparative performance of our opponents. Thanks Matt. Thanks Tim. And especially — thanks Gary.
The round was capped off by a quick visit to our cars, where we dropped trunked our golf clubs. Once upon my partner’s car, I couldn’t help but take a quick picture of the back of Gary’s bumper:
Is that fucking sick, or what?
You can always tell a Republican’s car by the NRA sticker, combined with some bullshit affiliation with the local police association. Folks, this is how fascism begins.
But golf does make for some rather strange political alliances, and — so long as I’m making a handsome profit at golf, which is something that’s never happened before — I’m thrilled to partner with “Dr. Evil” for the day. At this rate, I’ll soon be Michelle Bachman’s campaign manager.
Our pleasurable round of golf is capped with a celebratory visit to the Angle Park clubhouse, which for me includes three Campari and Sodas in jubilant euphoria. Never has a drink tasted better than to be with friends, shoot par for a round, and be able to hoist a glass in triumph.
Which brings me to my next challenge.
Since the Treasure Brothers now stand vanquished and buried in shame, the next golf mountain to climb will be conquering what I’ll call — “Mount Savage.”
That’s right — as in Matt Savage.
Here and now, I am issuing a public challenge to Matt Savage. He has to pick someone that sucks as bad as me as his golf partner. But I get Gary Thompson. Name the course. Name the date. Name the time. And bring your wallet and credit cards. I’ll make sure there’s an ATM machine on the premises. You;re going to need it.
Hey Matt — are you man enough to accept?
In the meantime I will marvel at the man I have come to admire and adore. Although his humility won’t allow him to accept the praise, I think it’s pretty damned incredible that Gary went out on absolutely no practice, given all the challenges, and not only destroyed everyone else but made everyone else out on the course somehow feel special. As for me, I’m not nearly as nice — I like to pour salt in wounds when I fucking win.
But in the end, scorecards don’t really matter. What does really matter is who we are and how we play — the game of golf and the game of life. And one thing is absolutely certain. Everyone lucky enough to know Gary Thompson is already a winner.