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~ ~ Lee Trevino was born in Dallas, Texas in 1939, the son of immigrant Mexican workers to the United States. Brought up on the “wrong side of the tracks” (as they say in America) there could hardly ever have been anyone less likely to make the grade as a professional golfer. The young Trevino took to hanging around driving ranges and golf courses at an early age, in order to pick up a few dollars by doing odd jobs, and by caddying for the wealthy members. It wasn’t too long before he had a golf club in his hands, and one of the most unlikely success stories that the golf world has ever seen had began. He soon got so good at the sport that no one would play him for money, so young Lee took to playing his tee shots with an old Coke bottle wrapped in insulating tape to stop it from shattering. By this ploy he was able to manage to get other players to challenge him. Little did they know that even using his bottle he could hit the golf ball further than most scratch golfers!
~ ~ Along the way he also developed a quick wit and wicked sense of humour that was later to endear him to golf fans all over the world. On the golf course he talked and wisecracked constantly, which sometimes didn’t make him too popular with his fellow professionals. There is a now famous encounter that he had with Nick Faldo at the US Masters one year. Knowing his reputation, Faldo approached him before the beginning of the round, and told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t much of a talker on the golf course. Lee replied, “That’s OK Nick. No need for you to talk at all. Just listen!”
~ ~ But Trevino’s jocular demeanour actually disguised a competitor of steel. During his professional career on the main circuit he was to win no fewer than 27 tour events, play for his country in the Ryder Cup on six separate occasions, and most significant of all, have his name engraved on six Major Championships. He won the US Open on twice, in 1968 and 1971, the USPGA twice in 1974 and 1984, and the British Open twice in 1971 and 1972. His win in the British Open at Muirfield in 1972 all but destroyed the spirit of one of our own golfing greats, Tony Jacklin. Jacklin looked an absolute certainty to add a second title to his win in 1969, when at the penultimate 17th hole, Trevino suddenly produced the shot of a lifetime, chipping the ball into the hole from deep rough around the green. Jacklin could not respond, and Trevino went on to lift the title, with Jacklin destined to never again reaching the heights he had in his prime.
~ ~ He never even came close to winning the fourth Major, the US Masters at Augusta, mostly because the course didn’t suit his type of golf game, but also because he had more than one falling out with the “stuffy” officials who run this tournament. (You can play in the Masters by personal invite only)
~ ~ He retired from the main tour in 1990, at the age of 51, but then joined the now very lucrative Senior Tour in America (he calls it the “fat bellies” tour) where he has gone on to amass yet another small fortune of over $3 million in prize money.
~ ~ I cannot finish this opinion about this great American player without giving you another couple of examples of his irrepressible humour. He was twice struck by lightning during his golfing career, and when quizzed at one event by the press as to what he would do if a threatened thunderstorm struck, he replied. “I’ll go and stand out in the middle of the fairway with a one iron raised above my head. Not even GOD can hit a one iron!” The last incident I actually witnessed personally. He was again being interviewed by the TV cameras before his final round in the British Open at Muirfield in 1972, and was asked how he managed to cope with the incredible pressure of having a good chance of winning the title. His reply, “This aint pressure guys. Try playing a hustler for $50 when you’ve only got $10 in your hip pocket. THAT’S pressure. I get paid here whatever I do, and aint nobody gonna shoot me if I lose.”
~ ~ That just about perfectly sums up the philosophy of this extremely likeable and affable “Tex/Mex”. The most unlikely golfing hero of the 20th century.
He's a great character, superb sense of humour and not machine like most golfers. I had the pleasure of seeing his golf and witnesses his humour at a few of the Open's in the 80s/90s.
Okocha 30.03.2001 11:14
Great opinion. Good to see a fellow golf fan
the_mad_cabbie 29.03.2001 22:39
Isn't it great, CH. I'm doing my best, and working with the category manager to try to really get it off the ground. Plus I've invited another good friend of mine who's a published golf writer to join as well.