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Truly great sports stories are something you’ll find littered throughout Hollywood, whether it’s Miracle, Brian’s Song or Rudy – all of which deserve their shot in show business.
And although it’s not Hollywood’s fault, this tale truly is one for the big screen.
Our story starts in the 1930’s, coincidentally enough, in Hollywood.
Golf was a huge spectator sport during this time, reeling in masses of spectators to minor and major tournaments across America with the best golfers receiving huge recognition from audiences alike.
For any sportsmen, it was the quickest way to become famous. Crowds loved a man who could hit a bogey on a par four. Just thinking about it makes my knees wobble.
Names were big in major tournaments, yet competing in minor tournaments a man called John Montague seemed to appear out of nowhere. He was a squat and powerful character in his late 20’s that simply popped up at the first tee of the public golf courses around California.
Armed with good looks and a charming personality, Montague also had a curiously large set of golf clubs. His driver for example, doubled the weight of the average and could easily send golf balls 300 yards down the fairway.
There was a sense of mystery surrounding the local golfer, perhaps a touch of unreality. He wasn’t a victim of the recent Great Depression, wandering into town battered and bankrupt following a last-chance dream of palm trees and prosperity. And he wasn’t a money-cradling-has-been, he was a golfer – and wanted to play golf.
Where did he come from?
He never said.
What did he do for a living?
He never said.
Months later he was smashing course records, using his powerful drive to nestle the ball metres from the hole. No one had ever seen a man attack this game, this sport, the way he did.
He once arrived at a local golf club and pointed to a telephone wire 200 yards away, with a string of birds on it. Then, in front of a small crowd, got out his humongous driver and smacked a shot that not only hit the bird – but broke its neck. Broke its neck! The crowd gasped in disbelief, whereby Montague just smiled and disappeared.
The stories and the record scores accumulated in a fast pile. Not only did this John Montague play great and goofy golf, he seemed able to out-drink, out-eat, out-arm wrestle the world. Give him a pair of hot pants and a cape, and people would be calling him superman.
The strange part of all this was that the man in question did little to encourage it. He was shy, almost secretive. In a town where fame was a career goal, he wanted no part of it.
He refused to enter any tournaments other than club championships. He rejected all offers to turn pro, to take on the famous names like Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen. He didn’t play for championships, only for “other reasons”—for fun.
No one knew where he was from, what forces had driven him to Hollywood. No one knew where he made his money or how he supported himself. He was a mystery and apparently wanted to stay that way. If someone took his picture, he would ask for the film. He would pay for the film, then destroy it.
Monty played at the Lakeside Golf Club, the same in fact as sports writer Grantland Rice. Rice asked to play a round with Monty, which he agreed. It was at the last hole where Monty needed par to make the course record. Instead, he hit the ball into the trees and retired for the day.
Astounded, Rice asked him why? To which Monty replied: “I don’t like the fame”.
Rice couldn’t believe not only Monty’s talent, but also his persistence to not being famous. Being a sports writer, Rice went home and did what did best. He started writing.
Rice described everything about Monty, from his weight to his appearance. Word soon spread about Montague, who quickly found fame whether he liked it or not.
Photographers were soon spying on him, and taking secret photos whilst he played golf.
Elsewhere, New York State Police Inspector John Cosart had seen these articles, and was convinced that John Montague was in fact LaVerne Moore, head gang member responsible for an armed robbery almost seven years before.
Montague was arrested at his home on suspicion of being the criminal. After hearing about this, celebrities throughout Hollywood such as Bing Crosby and Oliver Hardy who had heard of Monty, miraculously defended him – paying for the best lawyers money could buy. If found guilty, he would’ve faced the rest of his life in imprisonment.
Two months later, and Monty was declared innocent – claiming the whole thing was a lie and someone had ‘framed him’.
The story ended well, but at age 68 Monty fell extremely ill with heart problems. Struggling to walk, he decided he’s play one more round of golf with a Grantland Rice, which he won. At the end of the game, he was congratulated for winning:
“Well done Monty, you’ve still got it.”
To which he replied: “Don’t call me Monty, it’s not my real name.”
Confused Rice asked, “Well what is your real name?”
By Ashton Schorah