Milwaukee's golf course Casanova put Tiger to shame in his day
Tiger Woods may be the reigning "Golfing Romeo" and "Links Lothario," but about 80 years ago that's what headlines called a Milwaukee golfer whose surname, under the circumstances, belongs at the top of the double-entendre leader board.
Lewis Longstaff was a member of a prominent local golf family in the early 1900s. At age eight he was a caddy, and later, like his brothers Allen and Clarence, he taught golf at Milwaukee's first municipal course at Lake Park. He turned professional at 15, and a year later was the staff pro at the Oshkosh Country Club. After moving to Oregon, Longstaff was the pro at Tualatin Country Club in Portland. He won the Portland Open in 1926 and '-27, and the following year claimed to have won the professional championship of the Beaver State.
But when it came to scoring, Longstaff did his best work in the sack. "Good looking, with a pleasant, ingratiating manner, Longstaff was well liked, and it was this pleasing personality that made it easy for him to get into his particular kind of trouble," said The Milwaukee Journal in 1932. It started when Longstaff was 16, and lost his job at the Oshkosh Country Club when he was sentenced to 18 months in the Green Bay Reformatory for adultery after an affair with a married woman. Longstaff was married himself then, and when he went to jail his wife divorced him. While an inmate, Longstaff taught golf to other jailbirds.
After he got out, Longstaff met Edith Malecki of Beaver Dam. They were married in 1920 in Rockford, Ill. He used the alias "Richard Hughes" then, explaining later, "When I got out [of prison] I wanted to get into golf again and thought I ought to have another name."
The couple moved to Portland, where Longstaff's golfing career went on the upswing and on Christmas Day in 1923 he and Edith had a daughter named Marguerite, or "Marge" for short. Longstaff was at the hospital when his daughter was born, and telegrammed friends and family in Milwaukee about the blessed event.
In 1929, Longstaff's golf game deteriorated on account of "arthritis of the eye," also known as uveitis, which affects blood supply to the retina and causes blurred vision. One of the causes is syphilis. He eventually lost the sight in the affected eye. Longstaff moved on to Pittsburgh and worked in a sporting goods store. After two years he lost that job and the family settled in Milwaukee.
In early September of 1931, the 36-year-old Longstaff announced to Edith that he was heading back to the West Coast to give the golfing life another swing.
What he didn't tell her was that he was going with 31-year-old Elsie Prill, a Mukwonago woman who'd sat in front of Longstaff when they were youngsters attending school in East Milwaukee (now Shorewood), with whom he had recently reconnected.
And he didn't tell Elsie Prill, who he married on Sept. 9 in Rockford, that he already had a wife and a daughter.
Driving west in Elsie's car and living off her life savings of $3,500 along the way, Longstaff played in a few tournaments and sent letters back to Edith in Milwaukee describing his travels. Whether he added "Wish you were here!" isn't known, but given the size of the Titleists in his bag – and I don't mean the one that carried his clubs – it can't be put past him.
Upon their arrival in Los Angeles, Longstaff told Elsie that since he would be hitting the tournament circuit it would be best for her to return to Milwaukee – by train, because he'd need the car plus whatever cash she had left. The dutiful bride did as she was told. As soon as Elsie departed, Longstaff sold her car (to the sheriff of El Cerrito, Calif., no less) and notified Edith and Marge to meet him in San Francisco.
Elsie wasn't home long before unsettling gossip about her husband reached her. It didn't take much effort on her part to figure out that she was an unwitting member of an illegal threesome, and what she would do about it. "I'm going to make him suffer as he has made me suffer," she said after contacting authorities.
On May 26, 1932, the "debonair and cheerful" Longstaff was returned to Milwaukee by federal marshals to stand trial on a charge of violating the Mann Act, which prohibited the transportation of a female – Elsie Prill, in this case – across state lines for "immoral purposes."
Edith and Marge came home afterward, and Edith was surprisingly unfazed by the allegations against her husband. She demanded that reporters call her "Mrs. Longstaff," said she would not testify against Lewis and even indicated that when the law was done with him she was willing to pick right up where they'd left off.
But Longstaff blew that for good in an interview from his county jail cell (he couldn't make the $2,500 bail) when he claimed his 12-year marriage to Edith was invalid because he'd used a fake name at the wedding ceremony; said they hadn't lived together as man and wife much anyway; denied that he'd violated the Mann Act because it was Elsie Prill's money and car that took them to the coast, so technically he was the one who'd been transported; and said he'd never wanted to marry Elsie in the first place, and did so only after getting drunk.
But the ultimate proof that in the character department he was a total duffer came when Longstaff off-handedly insisted that he and Edith had adopted Marge, and that he had never spent much time around her.
That was especially callous because on the train trip home from California, Marge got pneumonia, and now was dying in her aunt's home at 3115 S. 14th St.
Marge died on June 7. Her father was allowed to briefly attend the wake, but not her funeral or burial at Holy Cross Cemetery.
When friends finally posted his bail on July 10, it was reported that Longstaff "hoped to get a few golf engagements in Milwaukee, although he feared his game might be a little rusty after his 'vacation.'"
He got a longer one when a jury found him guilty on March 15, 1935 of violating the Mann Act and Longstaff was sentenced to three years at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. He served just over two.
Elsie Prill had her marriage to Longstaff annulled. Edith said she was through with him, too, although as a good Catholic she would not get a divorce.
So unless Longstaff himself did the honors (not likely), eight years later when he resurfaced in Jacksonville, Fla. and wed a 63-year-old local woman named Blanche Truell, it was his second connubial bogey.
Thirteen years older than the husband she knew as "Richard Moore," Blanche spent two years with and several thousand dollars on Longstaff before he up and disappeared.
Later she found out he was serving consecutive six-month sentences in the Orange County Jail for bilking a couple dowagers from Orlando out of their savings. But when Blanche went to visit him there, Longstaff had escaped and was on the lam.
On May 8, 1950, he was nabbed in Nahant, Mass. Arrested with the 63-year-old ex-golf prodigy was Inez Moore, 72, identified in the press as a "prominent Massachusetts socialite" and also as Longstaff's wife of several years.
That would make her No. 5. There was a No. 6. She was Helen Mulford, who was responsible for Longstaff's latest legal trouble by alerting authorities in St. Petersburg, Fla., that the silver-tongued, dapper fellow who called himself "Richard Hughes," whom she'd met in January and married after a whirlwind courtship, had stuck around just long enough to persuade her to open a joint checking account and then steal the $8,240 she deposited in it.
Longstaff was gone when Helen came home in April from visiting relatives in Ohio. So was the elderly woman he called his "aunt," who had lived with them at Longstaff's invitation – and who was later identified as Inez Moore.
According to the cops who arrested him, Longstaff's very first statement for the record was "I hate women." Later he denied it, saying, "I've always preferred the company of honest and lovely women," he said.
Inez Moore posted her own $10,000 bond, and probably was glad she didn't pony up bail money for her husband when Longstaff described her to a reporter as "a fine woman that I would like to have as a mother." He remained behind bars until detectives showed up to take him back to St. Petersburg to stand trial on charges of larceny and bigamy.
In a June 2, 1950 jailhouse interview with reporter Paul Mitchell of the St. Petersburg News, the old roué was as voluble, audacious and self-centered as ever.
His "first mistake," Longstaff claimed, was letting his parents force him into his very first marriage with someone he didn't love, because that had teed up all his subsequent troubles with the opposite sex.
"I guess I'm the black sheep of the family," he said. "My brothers and sisters never even did smoke a cigarette as we were growing up. Looks like it took me to make the family name known."
But, added Longstaff, "I've had my good times. I've lived with the best and the worst and have few regrets. I've lived high and mighty – made up to $28,000 a year as a golf instructor for multi-millionaires in St. Louis and elsewhere."
On July 28, Judge John U. Bird sentenced Longstaff to five years at the Florida state penitentiary for bigamy. Presumably now the golfing misogynist is shanking them all over hell's molten acres.
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