Ben Lamb was in the midst of playing the worst round of golf in his life when he paused for a moment while walking from the eighth hole to the ninth hole at the Riviera Country Club, and he smiled.
Lamb was walking alongside his brother, Stuart, who was his caddie for the day, and Tiger Woods.
It was a surreal moment for the 2011 World Series of Poker Player of the Year, who was playing with Woods during the 2023 Genesis Invitational Pro-Am and trying to put into words why he was smiling while playing a forgettable round of golf on an unforgettable day.
“Growing up watching golf with my dad and my brother, I remember we would be building a wall or doing some kind of yard work outside of our home in Tulsa, Oklahoma and we would have our little TV out there watching golf and all of my memories are of Tiger, no one else,” Lamb said. “It was all about Tiger. Those memories are ingrained in my mind. Watching him every tournament. He’s the greatest of all time and now I’m getting to play with him and have my brother caddie for me.”
Lamb first met Woods when he played in Tiger’s Poker Night, a charity poker tournament put on by the TGR Foundation and the World Poker Tour as part of Woods’ annual Tiger Jam charity event in Las Vegas, which raises money for his foundation. How good is Woods at poker?
“Tiger knows the rules of poker,” Lamb said. “He showed me one bluff when I played with him before. He’s probably about as good a poker player as I am a golfer.”
Lamb has been playing golf since he was eight years old and is a 7-handicap. Despite being one of the best poker players in the world, golf is his first passion. Even his Twitter bio reads, “Golf + Wine, sometimes poker.”
“Having so much free time, I have to fill it with something and golf takes up a lot of that time,” Lamb said. “I like golf and gambling in golf. In poker, I can go out there play badly and win all the money and I can play great and get my ass kicked. In golf, if you don’t show up that day, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. There’s very little luck involved in golf. If I go out there and I lose or I play badly, I can’t blame it on luck. You can trick yourself in poker and say I played well but I just got unlucky but in golf, if someone goes out there and kicks my ass, it’s my fault. That’s on me.”
Lamb doesn’t like playing poorly at the poker table or on the golf course, but the pro-am, which started before the sun had risen around 6 a.m. in unusually cold and windy 40-degree temperatures in Pacific Palisades, California wasn’t about winning or losing. Lamb had already won in his mind the moment he stepped onto the golf course with Woods.
“There’s nothing like playing with Tiger,” Lamb said. “I’ve played with a lot of pros but Tiger is next, next, next level. Getting to play with him, there’s nothing like it. It exceeded all my expectations. I knew he wasn’t going to play all the holes; they told us that ahead of time. I get it. He’s not here to play with me. He’s here to return to the PGA Tour. They said he was going to play 12 holes and he ended up playing 16 holes so it exceeded my expectations. My game did not exceed my expectations. I shot 50 on the front nine. I’ve never shot 50 on the front nine in my life but on the back nine I had some good shots, which was fun. But it was all about the experience.”
The difference between the front nine and the back nine for Lamb was his caddie. Lamb made a late request to have two caddies on the day – his brother, Stuart, and his good friend, Shane Sigsbee.
“I originally invited my brother, Stuart, to caddy for me but he couldn’t because he had family obligations, so he had to say no. So I invited my friend Shane Sigsbee and he immediately said yes,” Lamb said. “He didn’t even ask his wife even though it was Valentine’s Day. He spent Valentine’s Day (traveling) with me, not his wife. But then my brother changed his plans and decided he could come, so I was in a predicament where I really want my brother here and Shane had already committed to being here, so they allowed Shane to caddy the front nine and my brother to caddy the back nine. It was great to have them both here.”
Despite having two caddies, Lamb’s best advice of the day, not surprisingly, came from Woods, who helped Lamb on a couple of shots, knowing Lamb had money on the line with some bets he made with his two caddies.
“Having Tiger Woods giving me a couple of reads on the back nine with the eight-foot and 12-foot for birdie was pretty cool,” Lamb said. “He knew I had a bet on making birdies, so having him give me those reads was pretty sick. It was really awesome actually. I thought he was going to be guarded and shut off, but he wasn’t. He was out there trying to make our day great, and it was.”
As Lamb walked off the golf course and into the clubhouse at Riviera, which has been the site of three major championships and will host golf during the 2028 Summer Olympics, he shook his head as he took off his hat and soaked in his surroundings.
“Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I dropped out of college with $8,000 to my name, thinking I would be a professional poker player,” Lamb said. “I was nearly broke when I got a job dealing. I didn’t think I would be where I am today. Obviously, there’s been a lot of luck in my life, but I never thought it would lead to this. This is awesome. I’ll remember this forever.”