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(Cheryl Carlin)

Interview with Leigh Montville

The sportswriter discusses John Montague’s fabled antics and how the man changed golf

Do you think anyone suspected at the time that he was a fugitive given his desire to remain anonymous?
It seems that people didn't know what to think about that. I suppose you would wonder a little bit why wouldn't this guy want his picture taken, but he always would say it was due to modesty. The sketchiness of where he came from and everything was kind of covered by [the fact that] Hollywood was filled with people who had come from all kinds of directions and changed their names for the movies and changed their histories. Hollywood is kind of an anonymous place when people come from all over to try to make a new life, a new career.

Any speculations about why he didn't go pro after the trial?
There were a couple of things. He was 34 years old at the end of the trial. He had put on a lot of weight, and he hadn't been playing a lot of golf while all that stuff was going on. He would have had to lose the weight and really thrown himself into golf to get back to what he was. He'd also gotten married to a widowed woman [after the trial] who had a lot of money. So between those two things, he didn't have the hunger and maybe physically he just wasn't up to it. He'd never had the competition. He'd never really gone out and had to play in a tournament for four and five straight days against a bunch of other good players. There was a combination of things, mostly his age and his weight, I think. He was on the decline.

Do you think there's room for someone like Montague—who adds an element of goofiness to the game—in today's golf scene?
Well, yeah. The guy you think of probably closest would be John Daly, who hits the ball and has very little self-control in his personal life. People are just fascinated by him. And I think this guy would wholly be as fascinating as that.

Are you a golfer yourself?
Bad. Although over the winter here [in New England], it might have all fallen into place. That's always the thinking with golfers in the North because you stop playing the first week in November, and I haven't played yet. I just think certain coordination and grace has come over me in the past four or five months, totally without doing anything.

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