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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

By R.J. Smiley

As the Ryder Cup draws closer it seemed appropriate to put the spotlight on one of the best players ever to wear the Ryder Cup Team USA uniform.

When Lee Trevino, a poor Mexican golf course rat, came on the golf scene, he instantly connected with the golfing public because he was just like them. Just an ordinary, lunch-bucket, Joe with a homemade golf swing.

Early in his career, I had the opportunity to witness Trevino during a practice session at a public golf course in Texas. Trevino was not entertaining. He was not putting on a show. He was totally focused - working on his golf game. Trevino played golf "the old fashion way." He played by feel. He would see the shot; then visualize that shot. He would then feel in his mind how it was going to feel hitting the shot. The shot most times happened exactly as he saw it. During that practice session, a few of us watched as Trevino hit 80 yard shots for over an hour. He hit shot after shot with a 5-iron, an 8-iron and a wedge. He was known to be a left to right player, and a fade was his preferred shot. But I watched him hit low hooking shots, high soft draws and a variety of fades, with all three clubs. All the balls came to rest, within a blanket's width from a small tree on the bald prairie. Then he hit a variety of shots with his driver off the fairway. Lee was working with a purpose: he wanted to get better! He never wanted to face a shot he had not practiced. He was driven to win.

When asked if he felt the pressure when he was winning the U.S. Open, Trevino joked with a smile, "That was not pressure. Playing a $5 Nassau with no cash in your pocket - that's pressure!"

When Trevino was not on the golf course entertaining the gallery and beating his opponent, he was like any other blue collar guy with a pocket full of money. He liked to drink beer and party. Stories about the happy go lucky Mexican and his beer drinking exploits became famous. It seemed beer was always in Trevino's motel room. The story goes that he always had a bathtub full of beer buried in ice. "Not much room for me to take a shower," Trevino quipped.

Throughout the long Ryder Cup history, Trevino posts one of the best career records. Lee played 30 Matches and won 20 points. Compare that to the all time point leader Billy Casper who won 23½ in 37 matches. Note how Trevino's record looks next to Phil Mickelson who has played 38 matches and won only 17 points, or Tiger Woods, everybody's hero, who has played 33 matches and won 14½ points.

Recently the story of the 1975 Ryder Cup has been relived. (Prior to 1977, the Ryder Cup Matches played 36 holes every day. There were two 8 against 8 single matches on Sunday. Since 1977 all 12 team members on each team play one match on Sunday.)

During the 1975 Ryder Cup, Trevino was, captain Arnold Palmer's horse. (Meaning Palmer expected Trevino to play every match and win every point.) Lee played in the first five matches and with the Ryder Cup trophy, secured by Team USA, Trevino, who told Palmer that he was tired, did not want to play in the second match on Sunday. When Palmer told Trevino that he was going out first in the afternoon matches, Trevino sent the locker room attendant out for a 6-pack of Rolling Rock beer. Trevino recalls with a smile, "I downed four of those beers and headed for the first tee." When Trevino made the turn, Palmer asked, "How do you stand?"

"Just fine, I am two down."

Palmer who understood the "Merry Mex" slipped Trevino two more Rolling Rocks over the fence. Trevino, who lost by three, insists that the beer was not the reason he lost.

As we watch the Hazeltine version of the Ryder Cup don't get too serious. Think of what Trevino might say. Something about where are the cows and corn, to quote Dave Hill.

I will end this tribute to one of my ultimate favorite golfers with one of his famous quotes, "You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husbands have to work."

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