I've only met a very few people that I really didn't like.
Billy Leigh headed that list. This started way back in
ancient times of the late 1940's.
I was first exposed to Billy at the Fla. High School Golf
Championship.He and several other junior golfers
were gathered around the first teein Lakeland.
They were trying to decide who among them was
going to win the driving contest.
None of them did or even came close.
Afterwards, all except Billy came over and
introduced themselves and congratulated me.
He was sulking all by himself. They had all been
playing in junior tournaments in central Florida
for several years. I was an unknown outsider
from the swamps of southwest Fla.
In the semifinals, I met up with Billy again
and found him to be unfriendly, arrogant
and egotistical. Usually I was more concerned
with beating par than my opponent, but this
was different. I really wanted to beat him.
We finished all even after 18 holes.
In sudden death, he holed out a bunker shot
to tie my birdie. On the next hole he drove
deep into the woods, but got a favorable
ruling from his home course pro and
birdied the hole, while I parred. That
didn't endear him to my heart either.
Several months later we met again in the State
Junior Tournament, which was stroke play.
He won that tournament, which made me like
him even less. My disappointment was eased
when I learned my second place finish qualified
me for the National Junior that was held in
Lincoln Nebraska. That was a 3 ½ day train
ride each way, shared by Billy and me.
I certainly didn't look forward to that.
The local Junior Chamber of Commerce paid
all our expenses. I lost out in the second
round, but Billy made it to the semifinals.
I caddied for him when he lost to the
eventual winner- Gene Littler (later a
first line playing pro).
After the tournament was over,
while waiting for our trains, Billy and I
were one of five two man state teams
that played nine holes. Included in the
group was the Texas team of Littler
and Billy Maxwell. (another future pro).
We started out with one dollar bets all
around, but the betting quickly escalated.
Billy kept doubling up on all bets and we
weren't doing very well. I asked him on the
9th hole, “ Billy, how much are we down?”
He said, “Oh! 'bout a hunnerd dollars.”
!!!! I didn't have a hundred dollars.!!!
I said,” God, if you'll get me out of this, I'll never
gamble again.” --- He did, and I didn't.---
I hit an eight iron about 160 yards right in
the cup for an eagle, and we won two or three bucks.
On the train ride home, I got to know Billy
a lot better and underneath his exterior
demeanor, he was really a nice guy. He was
only 16, and emotionally even younger, but
when I mentioned that I felt very bad that I
had let down our JACEES, Billy consoled me.
He was an orphan that had been adopted
by a doctor and his wife. I finally realized that
he had just built a psychological protective
shell around himself. He was really just
insecure. We became good friends on that
long ride home.
Several years later, I saw him again.
It was at a Florida Gator football game. I
hadn't been playing golf or keeping up with
it since my freshman year at college and
was anxious to know how he was doing.
We had a real nice reunion, but it was our
A few more years past, and I was in pilot
training in Bartow Fla. On Saturday we had
the day off and several of us went to play golf
in Winter Haven. To my pleasant surprise,
the pro at the golf course, was Jerry Schulteis,
who was the first alternate to Billy and me,
for the Nebraska trip. I asked Jerry if he
knew what ever became of Billy. I had
expected to see his name on the pro tour.
Jerry gave me a shocker. Billy had been
caught by his step father while having an
affair with his step-mother, and was told
--- “Get out of this house right now
or I'll kill you.” Billy allegedly said,
“You ain't got the guts”.
Billy was shot dead right then and there.
That tough shell that he had built for himself
did him in. Too bad, underneath he was a
good guy and would have been a great golfer.