NORTON, Mass. -- It was Wednesday afternoon this week when a few visitors to Pleasant Valley Country Club in nearby Sutton, Massachusetts, were greeted in the pro shop by longtime head professional Paul Parajeckas. He immediately started regaling them with tales of the good ol' days, back when the PGA Tour held an annual event there for 30 years. Then he brought up the most famous of all those tales.
"You know that Maltbie story?" asked Parajeckas. "That happened here."
Of course the visitors knew the Maltbie story. Everybody knows the Maltbie story, or at least some variation of what happened so many years ago.
On July 20, 1975, Roger Maltbie won the Pleasant Valley Classic, earning a first-place check of $40,000. He was handed the payment on the final green afterward -- not some oversized novelty check, but the real deal that looked very much like any other paycheck, only with a few more zeroes attached.
"I had a courtesy car driver that week who kind of adopted me," recalled Maltbie, who made the cut on the number, then shot 66-67 in breezy conditions for the title. "I won the tournament, I went in, I bought a round of drinks at the bar, then I said, 'Where do we go? What do we do?' He took me to T.O. Flynn's."
Needless to say, Maltbie and those around him enjoyed themselves at the local establishment that night. When he awoke the next morning, the champion was admittedly a bit foggy.
"I don't know how long I sat there, but it took a little while until I realized I won the day before," he said. "I was going to get a newspaper and read about how cool I am. Then I reached into my pockets and I'm like, 'Oh, s---. Something bad's happened here.'"
Maltbie's first phone call was to T.O. Flynn's. Nobody had seen the check. His next phone call was to the tournament director. When Maltbie told him there was a problem, he replied, "What kind of problem could you possibly have?"
He explained that he'd lost the check, to which the tournament director laughed, then said he'd cancel it and issue a new one. Maltbie soon called him back and asked if he could make the new one out for $39,000 instead -- and give the pro $1,000 in cash, because, well, he'd lost all his money at the bar, too.
Not long afterward, the owner of T.O. Flynn's phoned Maltbie at his hotel. He'd found the check.
"I said, 'It doesn't matter, because they're going to give me another check,'" he recalled. "So the owner says, 'Do you mind if we keep it? We'll frame it and hang it up at the bar.'"
Maltbie liked that idea -- and a legendary story was spawned. He wouldn't just become a five-time PGA Tour winner and popular television commentator. He would become "The Guy Who Lost the Check."
"In a lot of ways, that little slip of paper has defined my adult life and my professional life," said Maltbie. "I'm not Jack Nicklaus, OK? I've had to explain this story. I've been asked to tell it at corporate outings. It's been told and recounted ad nauseum, it seems."
So sure, when Parajeckas asked the visitors if they knew the Maltbie story, they all smiled and nodded. Everybody knows the Maltbie story.
They just didn't know what they were about to hear next.
"I have the check," Parajeckas told them. "It's upstairs in my office. Wanna see it?"
After hanging in T.O. Flynn's for a decade before it closed, the check had been returned to Pleasant Valley, where it was displayed in the grill room. Years ago, fearing someone might walk away with it, the check was placed in Parajeckas' office for safekeeping.
The pro took the visitors through the shop, up a staircase and into a corner office overflowing with memorabilia from those good ol' days. Memorabilia that included Parajeckas' old PGA Tour badges, photos with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, and a few oversized checks hanging on the wall.
He opened the bottom drawer of a dresser near his desk, rifled through a handful of old paperwork and found an envelope. From it, he pulled out a lone check, the one addressed to Roger Maltbie dated 41 years earlier, the one that was assumed long gone.
Pretty soon, the wheels were in motion to reunite Maltbie with his long-lost check. A photo of it was tweeted, then a text message of that photo was sent to Maltbie himself.
He wanted it back.
Parajeckas was summoned to TPC Boston, where Maltbie is working for NBC at this week's Deutsche Bank Championship. At precisely 11 a.m. Saturday morning, Maltbie was presented the winner's check from the 1975 Pleasant Valley Classic.
Still creased just as he'd folded it and placed it in his pocket 41 years ago, Maltbie took a long look at the check he never thought he'd see again.
"I promise you this," he said with a laugh. "That's the last winner's check I'm ever going to get."
Through the laughter, Maltbie became a little choked up, tears welling in his eyes. After all, this little piece of paper has defined him. Everybody knows the story. Now they're going to know about a new ending.
"I really didn't lose it," he said, laughing again. "I just misplaced it for 41 years."