The Man Who Invented the Yardage Book

Deane Beman won the U.S. Amateur twice and the British Amateur once, and between 1969 and 1973 he won four times on the PGA Tour.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 13: Golf: US Amateur Open, Closeup of Deane Beman victorious with trophy at Wakonda Club, Des Moines, IA 9/13/1963 (Photo by Lee Balterman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (SetNumber: X17644)

Beman and the trophy for the 1963 U.S. Amateur. Photo by Lee Balterman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

He became the tour’s commissioner in 1974, and he built the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass—where the Players Championship, the fifth major, will be held next month, and which you can read about in my column in the current issue of Golf Digest—and he is largely responsible for transforming the tour into a robust modern enterprise. He was also the first player to methodically measure and record key yardages on the golf courses he played, beginning in 1954, when he was still a junior:

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Beman’s homemade yardage guide for the 1954 U. S. Jaycee Junior Tournament, which was held on the golf course of the University of New Mexico.

“I’d pace off the golf course during a practice round, and make notes on a scorecard,” he told me recently. “It was quite unsophisticated, but pretty effective. Doing that was a little more difficult back then, because golf courses had single-row irrigation, so there weren’t as many sprinkler heads as you have today. I used trees and bunkers and things like that. A championship course usually had bunkering in the landing areas, and I could use either the front or the back of a bunker as my mark to the front of the green. And then I’d measure the green.”

Beman's front-nine notes from the 1958 U. S. Open, at Southern Hills. The circled numbers are green depths.

Beman’s front-nine notes from the 1958 U. S. Open, at Southern Hills. The circled numbers are green depths.

“I played a lot of golf with Jack Nicklaus when we were amateurs, and he would laugh when I pulled out my card,” Beman continued. “But then he got married to the idea. The first time Jack copied what I did was at Pebble Beach, for the 1961 U. S. Amateur.” Nicklaus himself said later, “I was playing a practice round with Deane in 1961 and he said, ‘Why don’t you try it one time, just walk off the golf course?'” He did, and blew away Dudley Wysong in the final. “After that,” Beman continued, “I don’t think Jack ever played a round without having the ability to really, really know the length of any shot he was facing.”

Beman's notes from Colonial, in 1960.

Beman’s notes from Colonial, in 1960.

“Now, I will say this,” Beman went on. “I was not a popular guy with caddies, because I required them to go walk the golf course before every round, and pace off every pin position. I had my yardages to the front of the green, and I knew how deep the green was, so I would give my caddie a pad on which I had marked the dimensions. I wanted to know how deep the pin was that day, and he would pace that off. Nobody had any pin sheets in those days—but I did.”

Beman's notes for the 1959 Masters.

Beman’s notes for the 1959 Masters.

Nowadays, tour players and their caddies carry extraordinarily sophisticated yardage books, which contain not just distances but also topographical details, and even lousy golfers can determine the length of just about any shot within a few feet, if they own a laser rangefinder. But players at all levels were skeptical at first, and Beman’s idea didn’t really catch on until the 1970s. Arnold Palmer, among many others, though it was dumb. Ha!

Beman's notes for Pinehurst No. 2.

Beman’s notes for Pinehurst No. 2.

“My notes became much more sophisticated once I turned professional,” Beman said. He saved those scorecards, too — but the ones in the photos above show how it all began.

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Masters Countdown: Great Moments in the History of Slow Play

Ed Furgol, 1957 Masters. (Photo by John G. Zimmerman /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Ed Furgol, 1957 Masters. (Photo by John G. Zimmerman /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Not all that long ago, Masters competitors, playing in twosomes, were expected to finish 18 holes in about three hours, even during the tournament’s final round. After the 1956 Masters, a competitor wrote to Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, to complain that, after playing the first nine in an hour and a half, he had been told by an official to hurry up. You can read more at this blog’s official home, on the Golf Digest website. And if you “subscribe” to myusualgame.com, by filling in your email address in the blank on the right side of this page, you’ll be notified every time I post something new. And, if you’re willing to wait a month or so, you can find complete versions of all my old posts on this site, too, by paging down until you reach them.

Doug Ford and Clifford Roberts, 1957 Masters. (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Doug Ford and Clifford Roberts, 1957 Masters. (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Masters Countdown: Clifford Roberts and the Range Balls

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Clifford Roberts was the co-founder, with Bobby Jones, of Augusta National Golf Club, and he served as its chairman from the club’s founding until his death, in 1977. For many years, the only golf balls Roberts used were Spalding Dots, which had balata covers and were used by many tour pros. The golf shop would order six dozen before each season—all with Roberts’s name printed on them—and he would send his caddie to the shop whenever he needed a new sleeve. The first balls with Surlyn covers were introduced in the mid-nineteen-sixties, and at some point Roberts played a round with a member who was using one of them. “They’re longer than the old balls,” the member said, “and you can’t cut them.”

Augusta National/Getty Images

Augusta National/Getty Images

Roberts told his caddie to go back to the shop and return immediately with one of the club’s two head pros. “These balls I’ve got are no goddamned good,” he said when the pro had hurried over to see what was the matter. Roberts switched to the new balls, and liked them — a change that left the golf shop with six dozen Spalding Dots that had CLIFFORD ROBERTS printed on them. “There was nothing else to do with them,” Bob Kletcke, one of the pros, told me years later, “so I put them in my shag bag.” A short time later, Roberts borrowed Kletcke’s shag balls to practice with. (He always said that using striped range balls made him dizzy.) “Well, I’ll be goddamned,” he said as he teed one up. “These balls have my name on them.” And he loaded them all into his golf bag.

Arnold Palmer And Chairman Clifford Roberts (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Arnold Palmer And Chairman Clifford Roberts (Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images)

Masters Week Weather: WTF!

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Oh, relax—I didn’t take that photo in Augusta. I took it here in Connecticut, where we just finished the mildest winter since the dinosaurs went extinct. (The nearest muny was closed for all of eight weeks; my home course re-opened earlier than it ever has before.) But then, early Sunday morning, the world looked like this:

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We called off Sunday Morning Group, and I hung around the house and “did chores.” Around lunchtime, though, Addison pointed out, by email, that most of the snow was gone from his yard, so he, Tim D., Mike A., and I met on the first tee at 3:00. It was cold, and the wind was blowing hard, but we had the course to ourselves:

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Here’s what the bulletin-board thing near the clubhouse looked like when we finished, a bit less than three hours later:

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And here’s what we looked like:

This isn't an art shot. The image is crooked because I had to prop the camera on the head of my driver.

This isn’t an art shot. The image is crooked because I had to prop the camera on the head of my driver.

We’ve had several opportunities recently to make our storm gear seem like a good investment. Here’s Barney on Saturday, when we played in rain:

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And, because only three guys showed up on both Friday and Saturday, we invented a new three-man game: three six-hole matches, in each of which one of us played against the better ball of the other two. The bet was two dollars per man per match, with automatic presses. It was fun, and the money came out virtually even, but we won’t be able to try it again for a while, because more snow fell overnight—and it’s still falling right now. I’m doing laundry!

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Masters Countdown: Why Does Augusta National Have Two Head Pros?

Augusta National has two head professionals, Tony Sessa and J.J. Weaver. They started as assistants under the club’s previous co-professionals, Bob Kletcke and David Spencer, and they moved up when Kletcke and Spencer retired. But how did Augusta National end up with two head professionals in the first place?

J.J. Weaver and Christine Wang, who won the girls' 12-13 division of a regional round of the Drive, Chip and Putt in 2013. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

J.J. Weaver and Christine Wang, who won the girls’ 12-13 division of a regional round of the Drive, Chip and Putt in 2013. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The club’s original pro was Ed Dudley, who was Bobby Jones’s first choice for the job. (His second and third choices were Macdonald Smith and Willie MacFarlane.) Jones explained his criteria to Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, before the two of them approached Dudley: “First of all I want a gentleman. Next, I feel we should select a pro who likes to teach. And, finally, I believe we want someone who is a good player.”

Robert P. Jones (Bobby's father), Jerry Franklin (an important early member), Clifford Roberts, Bobby Jones, and Ed Dudley, the club's first pro, 1931. (Augusta National/Getty Images)

Col. Robert P. Jones (Bobby’s father), Jerry Franklin (an important early member), Clifford Roberts, Bobby Jones, and Ed Dudley, the club’s first pro, 1931, three years before the first Masters. (Augusta National/Getty Images)

A fourth requirement was that the new pro be willing to work without a salary, since there was no money to pay him. Dudley at first had to get by on what he could earn from lessons and his minimally stocked golf shop—a tough proposition, considering how few golfers played the course in the early years.

Augusta National/Getty Images Clifford Roberts and Ed Dudley, 1940s.

Augusta National/Getty Images
Clifford Roberts and Ed Dudley, 1940s.

Beginning in 1934, he supplemented his income with earnings from his souvenir tent at the Masters and from the tournament itself, which he played in fourteen times. He finished in the top ten seven times during the first eight tournaments, and he came close to winning in 1937, when he finished third, behind Byron Nelson and Ralph Guldahl.

Augusta National/Getty Images Dudley's "golf shop" at the 1940 Masters. That's Lloyd Mangrum on the right.

Augusta National/Getty Images
Dudley’s “golf shop” at the 1940 Masters. That’s Lloyd Mangrum on the right.

Dudley retired from Augusta National in 1957 and was succeeded by his assistant, Gene Stout, who had also been his assistant at the Broadmoor, in Colorado Springs, where the two men worked during the summers, when Augusta National was closed.

Augusta National/Getty Images Gene Stout showing off samples of his tournament merchandise at the 1962 Masters.

Augusta National/Getty Images
Gene Stout showing off samples of his tournament merchandise at the 1962 Masters.

Stout was replaced in August, 1966, by his assistant, Robert Kletcke.

Augusta National/Getty Images Bob Kletcke and Arnold Palmer in the ninth fairway, in the 1960s.

Augusta National/Getty Images
Bob Kletcke and Arnold Palmer in the ninth fairway, in the 1960s.

And that same year Kletcke hired David Spencer to serve as his own assistant.

In the spring of 1967, at the end of Kletcke’s first season as the club’s head pro, he and Spencer were called to a meeting with Roberts. They were both nervous, because they figured they must have done something to displease their boss. When they arrived, though, they found Roberts in a good mood, and he told them they had done a good job. He said, furthermore, that he and the other members were tired of getting to know and like the club’s assistant professionals, only to have them move on to other jobs after just a few years. He said that he would like for both Kletcke and Spencer to remain at the club, and that if they continued to do a good job they could stay for as long as they liked.

“But I don’t want Bob eating steak and Dave eating hamburger,” Roberts went on. He said that he had arrived at a solution, which was for the club to have two head professionals, or co-professionals. He had had the club’s general manager draw up a partnership agreement, and he said that if they would sign it the jobs would be theirs. He said he realized that such an arrangement could lead to tensions, and that he did not want the two men to think of themselves as rivals. As a result, he said, if a situation ever arose in which he felt compelled to fire one of them, he would fire them both.

Augusta National/Getty Images Bob Kletcke and David Spencer.

Augusta National/Getty Images
Bob Kletcke and David Spencer.

Kletcke and Spencer were surprised by Roberts’ offer, and they asked if they could take the proposed agreement back to the golf shop to talk it over. On their way past the clubhouse, Spencer said, “Gee, Bob, I don’t know about this.” He had planned to stay at Augusta National for a few years, as was customary for assistants, then seek a head professional’s position at another club, probably in the Midwest.

“I don’t know either,” Kletcke said. “I’m not sure it’s a good idea.” Kletcke had been thinking he would like to try to play on tour. (He later did so briefly, with Roberts’ encouragement and with financial backing from several Augusta members.) Neither man was enthusiastic about sharing a job. They weren’t sure they would be compatible partners, and they weren’t excited by the thought that a misstep by either one of them, in Roberts’ eyes, could put both of them out of work. They talked about the proposal for some time, and came to the conclusion that it didn’t make sense for them. It had been considerate of Roberts to make the offer, but the arrangement was clearly unworkable. The only matter to be decided was which of them would tell Roberts.

“I’ve been here longer,” Kletcke said. “Why don’t you go back and tell him?”

“You know him better than I do,” Spencer said. “I think you ought to go.”

There was a long silence. Each man imagined knocking on Roberts’ door and explaining that neither of them liked his plan. They looked at the ground.

“Maybe we could both go.”

There was another long silence.

At last, Spencer held out his hand and said, “Well, how do you do, partner?” And the two men worked together, at adjacent desks, for the next four decades. If either of them had had the nerve to return to Roberts’ room after their meeting in 1967, both almost certainly would have left Augusta to do something else.

Bob Kletcke and David Spencer. (Augusta National/Getty Images)

Bob Kletcke and David Spencer. (Augusta National/Getty Images)

Masters Countdown: Why did Gene Sarazen Skip the First Masters?

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Gene Sarazen hit “the shot heard round the world”—his epochal double-eagle on Augusta’s fifteenth hole—in 1935, during the final round of the second Augusta National Invitation Tournament (as the Masters was officially known until 1939). He hadn’t played the year before. Why?

Sarazen swing

Sarazen himself often said, years later, that he skipped the first Masters because the invitation came from Clifford Roberts, the club’s co-founder and chairman, “and what the hell do I want to play in a tournament sponsored by a Wall Street broker?”—as he told me in a telephone interview in 1997. He also said that he threw out the first invitation because it had a Wall Street return address, and he figured it must be some kind of financial promotion.

Funny stories—but they aren’t true. His invitation came not from Roberts but from Alfred Bourne, who was the club’s vice president and principal financial backer, and Sarazen responded in February with a nice letter in which he told Bourne that he was “very glad to accept.” He backed out shortly before the tournament, though, because he realized that he had a conflicting commitment with Joe Kirkwood, an Australian professional and trick-shot expert (who had also been invited).

Sarazen and Kirkwood worked during the winter for the Miami Biltmore Hotel. Kirkwood had once proposed to Sarazen that they travel abroad together, and Sarazen had suggested South America. Kirkwood, unbeknownst to Sarazen, had scheduled their departure for late March, a week before the tournament, and their plans could not be changed. Sarazen, at the time, deeply regretted missing the first Masters. He said that a caddie in Fiji (on a different trip, presumably) told him, “We no hear of Mister Sarazen in Fiji, but we hear of Mister Jones.” He made certain that he would be available for the second Masters—which he won, in a playoff with Craig Wood.

The Masters wasn't officially called the Masters until 1939, but many players, sportswriters, and others used that name (which Jones considered presumptuous) from the beginning.

The Masters wasn’t officially called the Masters until 1939, but many players, sportswriters, and others used that name (which Jones considered presumptuous) from the beginning.

Masters Countdown: How Augusta National Almost Built a Miniature Version of Itself

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cooperstown, New York, on June 12, 1939. The Professional Golfers Association responded by creating its own hall and inducting several legendary players, among them Bobby Jones. But the P.G.A.’s hall was merely conceptual: there was neither a building nor a plan for one.

Clifford Roberts, Augusta National’s co-founder and chairman, thought the ideal location for a golf hall of fame would be at the club. The site he favored was an elevated six-acre parcel roughly 250 yards to the east of the tenth green. In a letter to Jones, he wrote that visitors “would have four good views of the course instead of one,” and that “members using the golf course would have a good view of an attractive building.”

The site Roberts favored was in the upper right-hand quadrant of this image. (And, yes, those are building lots. Augusta National tried to sell them, unsuccessfully, for more than twenty years.) You can see the old tenth green at the left, next to the familiar amoeba-shaped bunker.

The site Roberts favored was in the upper right-hand quadrant of this image. (And, yes, those are building lots. Augusta National tried to sell them, unsuccessfully, for more than twenty years.) You can see the old tenth green at the left, next to the familiar amoeba-shaped bunker.

Roberts wanted one wing of his hall of fame to contain “automatic movie machines,” which, for a quarter, would show instructional films by the game’s great teachers. Another wing would serve as both a comprehensive library and a bookstore. Visitors would be able to buy “popular-priced copies” of some of the books in the library, as well as souvenir booklets and postcards depicting the course.

This is an early Augusta National postcard, showing the tenth green in its original location, before it was moved back and to the left. Roberts's preferred site for his golf hall of game was out of the frame to the left.

This is an early Augusta National postcard, showing the tenth green in its original location, before it was moved back and to the left. Roberts’s preferred site for his golf hall of game was out of the frame to the left.

Roberts also wanted to create “a miniature Augusta National course surrounding the Hall of Fame which would be a practical pitch and putt course and could be made a most attractive part of the landscaping scheme.” The holes would be scaled-down replicas of the holes on the big course. He proposed a greens fee of twenty-five cents.

Despite Roberts’s enthusiasm, the idea never came to anything. The two members he had been counting on to pay for the project lost interest in it, and the club didn’t have the money to proceed on its own. And then news from Europe and the Pacific made other concerns more pressing.

Incidentally, the first hall of fame in the United States wasn’t in Cooperstown; it was in the Bronx. It was built in 1900 by New York University, on what’s now the campus of Bronx Community College, and was designed by Stanford White.

Bronx CC library

It was called the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. It was inspired by the Ruhmeshalle, in Munich, which had been built 50 years earlier. The original inductees were John Adams, John James Audubon, Henry Ward Beecher, William Ellery Channing, Henry Clay, Peter Cooper, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Farragut, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, Ulysses S. Grant, Asa Gray, Nathanial Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Horace Mann, John Marshal, Samuel F. B. Morse, George Peabody, Joseph Story, Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, Daniel Webster, and Eli Whitney.

Bronx Hall of Fame

It’s still there, and you can still visit it—maybe after playing one of the four swell municipal golf courses in the Bronx: Van Cortlandt, Split Rock, Pelham Bay, and Ferry Point (aka Trump National).

Masters Countdown: Clifford Roberts and the Thermostats

Clifford Roberts

Clifford Roberts was a co-founder (with Bobby Jones) of Augusta National Golf Club, and he was the chairman of the Masters from its founding, in 1934, until his death, in 1977. The room he slept in is at the far end of the east wing of the clubhouse. It’s named for him and is called a suite, but it is really just a single bedroom with a small bathroom, plus a closet in which Byron Nelson kept clothes between visits to the club. The room looks like a hotel room, and the furniture looks like hotel-room furniture. The only amenity is a fireplace, which Roberts would light at the first hint of cool weather. (He loved fires but was ambivalent about firewood; on his order, no log was ever delivered to his hearth which had not first been stripped of anything resembling bark.) In all weather, he kept his room warm — uncomfortably so, in the opinion of visitors. The room had two thermostats, and he would make minute adjustments in one or the other as conditions changed in ways that only he could detect.

Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, late 1930s. Roberts is wearing the original version of the green jacket, with an emblem design that was later replaced.

Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, late 1930s. Roberts is wearing the original version of the green jacket, with an emblem design that was later replaced.

One mild day, he called the building superintendent to say that he was freezing and that something must be wrong with the heating system, because a thermometer on a table was reading four degrees lower than a thermometer near the window. The superintendent sent a man to a local hardware store with the thermometer from the table and told him to return with an identical one that read four degrees higher. When the new thermometer was in place, Roberts called the club’s manager to say that the temperature in his room was now perfect and that no further adjustments to the heating system would be required.

Jones and Roberts ANGC

Masters Countdown: Why Isn’t Every Scorecard Like This?

Augusta National’s scorecard is different from every scorecard I’ve ever seen (I think). Can you spot the unique feature?

ANGC Scorecard

It’s the yardages: they’re all in multiples of five. The reason is that Clifford Roberts—the club’s co-founder, and the chairman of the Masters from the beginning until his death, in 1977—thought it was ridiculous to suggest that a golf hole could be measured with more precision than that, especially since the tee markers and hole locations changed from day to day. (Hey, why not give feet and inches, too?) It’s not a big deal—but it’s a glimpse into the mind of the person most responsible for creating the world’s last surviving un-screwed-up major sporting event.

Masters Countdown: An Augusta National Member Who Carried Even More Cash Than Phil Mickelson

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Dave Shedloski, with help from a squadron of Golf Digest staffers, recently asked a number of tour pros how much cash they carry. The winner was Phil Mickelson, whose wallet, at that moment, contained $8,100. That’s a lot. But one of the founding members of Augusta National routinely carried more. Way more.

W. Alton “Pete” Jones was the CEO of the oil company that’s known today CITGO. He was a close friend of Clifford Roberts, Bobby Jones, and Dwight Eisenhower (who joined the club in 1948), and he was known for his generosity. He insisted on picking up almost any restaurant or bar check that he had anything to do with, and he financed or helped to finance many improvements at the club.

W. Alton "Pete" Jones

W. Alton “Pete” Jones

Yet he had a number of miserly eccentricities. The first duty of his caddie was to search the grass for usable tees, because he hated to buy new ones. He haggled over handicap strokes—attempting, in Roberts’s words, “to ensure his being a winner on the golf course, no matter how small the stakes.” And he always traveled with heavy hand-cranked metal sharpener, which he used to extend the life of his razor blades. He was determined to get at least 25 shaves from each blade, and he would cheerfully spend 10 or 15 minutes honing an edge on one that was about to expire.

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Jones died in a commercial plane crash in 1962, on his way to California for a fishing trip with Eisenhower. (That’s Jones amidships in the photo above, and Eisenhower in the bow.) Also killed in that crash was the mother of Paul McCartney’s future wife Linda Eastman. The accident was fictionalized in the second episode of the second season of Mad Men.

Flight 1planecrash

When Jones’s body was identified, he was found to have been carrying roughly $60,000, in cash and traveler’s checks. Some people speculated that he must have been up to no good, and that perhaps he had been on his way to reward Eisenhower for favors to the oil industry. But no one has ever seriously suggested that Eisenhower took bribes, and Jones always carried huge sums—including $10,000 bills, which the government printed until 1946.

Roberts had often urged Jones to leave more of his treasure at home, but Jones, like several early Augusta members—including Roberts—had grown up in poverty, and he liked full pockets. And Roberts had a currency-related eccentricity of his own: he carried only brand-new bills, arranged in his wallet by denomination, and he always made sure to have enough small ones so that no one would be able to give him old bills in change.

The person I know personally who carries the most cash is Rocco Landesman. I wrote a profile of him in The New Yorker in 1994. At the time, he was mainly a theater producer; he later served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. We got to talking about money—actually, about betting on horses—and he said, “You should never carry less than $10,000 in cash at any time.”

Rocco Landesman

Rocco Landesman

When I laughed, he said, “No, it’s true.” He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a bundle of bills held together with a rubber band. “You’ve got to have cash,” he said, “because you never know where you’re going to be. You know, you might meet someone and decide you want to spend the rest of your life in Argentina.” He handed me the money. “I’ve got more over here.” He reached into another pocket, and pulled out another bundle.

I hefted both bundles, and fanned the bills with my thumbs, like playing cards. They were all 100s, and there were perhaps a 150 of them. It was the most $100 bills I had ever held in one hand at one time.

“Walking around with anything less than $10,000 is completely unacceptable,” Landesman went on. “It’s a necessity of life. It gives you freedom. The most important thing in life is a sense of possibility, and you simply can’t have it with less than $10,000 in your pocket.”

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