NORTON, Mass. — It took more than 41 years, but Roger Maltbie on Saturday morning got his hands on his $40,000 prize for one of his five PGA Tour wins, the 1975 Pleasant Valley Classic.
Now the check isn’t worth anything of value, except for completing the circle to a priceless memory that had attained the status of folklore.
“For better or worse, it has kind of defined my adult life,” Maltbie said.
Maltbie — the longtime NBC golf reporter and former PGA Tour player — will tell you that for 41 years, the story of the check he lost after winning a PGA Tour tournament was one he was asked to recount countless times.
So when he got his hands on the check Saturday morning before going to work for NBC to cover the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, Maltbie got somewhat emotional, but then flashed his brilliant humor.
Peering at the check as it was handed to him by Paul Parajeckas, the head professional at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Mass., Maltbie smiled. “It’s weathered the 41 years better than I have,” he laughed.
It was July 1975 when Maltbie made the cut on the number, took advantage of an early tee time Saturday to vault into contention with 67, then closed with a stellar 66 to beat Mac McLendon by one.
You want to know the sort of PGA Tour that 1975 provided?
Tournaments were run by families, by local folks, and the PV stop belonged in the warm embrace of Cuz Mingolla and he didn’t have one of those big cardboard checks. No sir, “he walked out to the green and handed me a check for $40,000,” Maltbie said.
Now the week before, Maltbie had won his first PGA Tour tournament, the Ed McMahon-Jaycees Quad Cities Open, so here was with a second win. He was in great spirits. And speaking of spirits, Maltbie wanted to know where the evening would take him and his friend and chauffeur for the week, Dick Fouracre, whisked him off to a local tavern, T.O. Flynn’s.
Maltbie has told the story of what ensued on countless occasions, how he hoisted a few and let the night get away from him.
When he woke the next morning, Maltbie remembers wanting to go out and buy a paper to read about himself. “I thought that would be pretty cool,” he laughed. Only when he checked his pants pockets, Maltbie couldn’t find the check, nor could he find any cash. A sense of panic set in and the first person he called was Mingolla.
“I said, ‘Cuz, I’ve got a problem,’ and he said, ‘What kind of problem could you have?’ ”
It took Mingolla no time at all to void the first check and to write out another, but Maltbie at this point had to call an audible. “I had no cash to get out of town,” he said. So he asked Mingolla to write him a check for $39,000 and give him $1,000 in cash.
Before leaving town, Maltbie got a call from the folks at the tavern. They had found the check. But since it had been voided and Maltbie had already worked out an arrangement with Mingolla, he gave his permission for them to have the check.
Now the odyssey of that check from that day to yesterday is a story unto itself. It was framed and hung at the tavern for years, then when it closed it went back to the folks at Pleasant Valley. For a while, it was on display there, but eventually Parajeckas felt it was wiser to put the check away for safe keeping.
It remained in a drawer until the other day when Jason Sobel of ESPN visited Pleasant Valley to play golf. He got in a conversation with Parajeckas, heard that the check was there, and came up with the idea of reuniting the check to its rightful owner.
Maltbie couldn’t have been happier.
“It’s pretty special to me. It really is,” he said.