I’m getting set to play in The Destroyer Open this weekend, which is a park golf tournament near Buffalo, New York. The tournament is named after Dick “The Destroyer” Beyer, a former four-time world heavyweight professional wrestling champion and hall of famer who owns a park golf course near his home. Beyer held the WWA world title on three occasions, plus the AWA world title under the disguise of Doctor X. But where he had his most notable success was in Japan, where he once wrestled Rikidozan in front of a televised audience of 70 million people!
So of course, being a wrestling fan and a miniature golf enthusiast of sorts (I like to refer to park golf as mini golf on steroids), I paid this place a visit a few weeks ago and really enjoyed playing the game of park golf. So much so, that I went back again the following week to play some more. But this time, I had a vintage wrestling magazine with The Destroyer on the cover which I asked him to sign before I teed off that morning.
I went out and proceeded to shoot a +3 (I’d shot a +6 in my first round the previous week, so I was making progress). As I was heading toward the 18th hole, The Destroyer (I refer to him as such since that’s how he introduced himself to me initially) and a friend of his who was visiting from Japan approached me on a golf cart. He introduced me to his friend and told his friend about the old magazine I’d had of him earlier, and we discussed vintage wrestling for a few minutes before I finished my game (I asked him if he ever met Whipper Billy Watson during his career because I never saw Watson’s name mentioned in his book, to which The Destroyer told me “I never wrestled him, but I met him when I was first starting out. At the time he was a big star and I was just a jabroni”).
After I was done, I grabbed the old magazine out of my car and showed it to his friend who appreciated taking a look through it. As a matter of fact, The Destroyer’s daughter who runs the golf course took a look through the magazine as well. It was a pretty cool moment for me to see them reminisce about old times, since I was semi-responsible for it by having the old magazine on hand with me. As we were talking, Beyer told his daughter he was about to head to lunch at a local diner with his wife and his friend from Japan…and then he asked me if I wanted to come along too! Of course I accepted the invitation.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s really hit me how big of a superstar he is/was (there’s not a whole lot of available video of his matches from his prime, and sometimes it’s hard to gauge how big of a star someone was by reading accounts secondhand), but I can tell you that I was kinda starstruck by the day, which says a lot because I’ve met countless athletes over the years, and I virtually have never gotten starstruck. I tried not to ask too many fanboyish questions (I did ask some, such as “Did you wrestle at Maple Leaf Gardens?” “Where was your favorite place to wrestle besides Japan?), but it was a really cool experience and I’m glad to say that I had the rare opportunity to enjoy lunch with such a legend in the industry.
Needless to say, I still play park golf when my schedule allows it (it’s about a 90 minute drive from my house, so it’s not the easiest thing to pencil in amongst my other travels), and I have every intent of trying to win the tournament this weekend (of course I’ll be a good sport if I don’t, which I don’t expect to since I have less experience than the other competitors). But I have a great time every time I head out to play park golf, and have the opportunity to talk to a legend of the industry.
If you’re interested in learning more about park golf, check out the link below: