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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Booth Returns To Lilac After Time Off For, Well… Flamboyant Golfer Spent Year In Federal Prison For Wire Fraud

He’s back.

Mike Booth, proud of being described as flamboyant and controversial, has returned to Spokane for the 38th annual Lilac Invitational golf tournament, which begins today at The Fairways.

Ask the gregarious Californian where he was last year and he answers by whipping out an identification card - from the federal penitentiary in Lompoc, Calif.

Booth was released April 15 with his confidence intact but his swagger toned down.

“I’m glad I went. I lived too much by the seat of my pants,” Booth, 35, said. “Family and friends didn’t mean much. I lived for the money and I spent it.”

The federal government figured he had too much to spend and an investigation brought an indictment against him and his accountant for tax evasion. The accountant “rolled over” and Booth took a 16-month sentence for wire fraud instead of gambling on losing a trial on the tax evasion charge, which carries a minimum 5-year sentence.

“The accounting in the (equipment leasing) company was… ,” Booth started. “As long as I was doing all right, I didn’t care. All I cared about was the Joneses, keeping up. I was missing out on my whole life. I was crazy.”

Booth blew into Spokane for the 1994 Lilac and led at the midway point. He drew as much attention for his personality and free spending as he did for his sweet swing. However, he ballooned to a 78 when paired with eventual champion Gary Lindeblad in the third round.

He was arrested after the tournament - and bailed out by Lindeblad - because the Ferrari he was driving had problems (not his) with the title.

That didn’t slow him down, and Booth promised to return plus kick in some sponsor money.

Booth scorched The Fairways for two rounds in 1995, then abruptly left town “for business reasons.” Critics whispered he departed because he cheated and his game couldn’t stand the scrutiny when he would be paired with the tournament leaders.

The truth, according to Booth, is the FBI came calling. He has the ID card to prove it.

Booth and his company went down, but he still saw to it that the tournament got his sponsor check.

Now he’s back because Lindeblad, businessman John Wood and the Durgans, who operate The Fairways and the golf tournament, “have been good to me. I feel like I’m home here, this is where I like to be. This is the only place I can relax.”

“He has gone to the pen and served his time,” John Durgan said. “Does that mean he’s condemned forever? Does that mean he cannot play in a golf event? No. Mike Booth has done nothing to me or this event that is negative. He has added money to this event for three years.

“As far as I’m concerned, he is welcome here at The Fairways Golf Course any time.”

Lindeblad was a little surprised that Booth, who hovers around Indian Canyon when in town, looks at him with the reverence of a father figure.

“He’d call me once in a while from the ‘Crowbar Hotel.’ I think mostly he wanted somebody to talk to,” Lindeblad said. “I suppose it’s pretty lonely in there, but I have no intention of finding out.”

Durgan said he has never been approached by golfers who charge Booth with cheating.

“My personal opinion is any claims of cheating haven’t been proved so those claims aren’t justified,” Durgan said.

, DataTimes

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