In the world of professional golf and, sports in general for that matter, Lee Trevino carries the privileged distinction that is bestowed on only a handful of individuals.
In athletics, recognizing someone by using just a single name instantly brings to mind collective thoughts of greatness. Nicklaus, Watson, Palmer, Snead, Hogan, Tiger…. And, you can add to that list, TREVINO.
It is a well-earned badge of respect, denoting excellence over a long period of time while carrying worldwide prominence in a highly competitive field on the PGA TOUR. In Lee Trevino’s case it brings to mind six major professional golf championships, including two US Opens, the most prestigious tournament in the sport, plus a pair of British Open crowns. It carries distinguishing titles such as Ryder Cup Captain, PGA Player of the Year, Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsman of the Year,” and induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame, just to name a few.
In a little more than four decades, Trevino has earned his reputation as one of golf’s all-time greatest and most popular performers with an exceptional record topped by a most engaging personality that has marked him as an adoring figure throughout the world.
The journey to the top of the mountain for this 69-year old Texan was anything but a smooth road. Trevino traveled a different path to success in a sport that is synonymous with country clubs, luxury amenities and wealth. He rose from poor and humble beginnings to become one of golf’s premier players, a self-taught golfer who after a less than pristine young life is now recognized as one of America’s truly finest sportsmen and citizen who today is as comfortable in the corporate board room as he is on a championship golf course.
Trevino was born on a cotton farm in Rowlett, Texas, just outside of Dallas. His mother, a housekeeper, and his grandfather guided him in his younger days, which he describes as “dirt poor.” The family moved to Dallas when his grandfather took a job as a gravedigger. After leaving school early, Trevino joined the Marine Corp at the age of 17 and his life began a favorable turn.
Though he had played some with the game as a youngster growing up next to a golf course, Trevino discovered competitive golf as a Marine, trying out and making the camp golf team. His love for the game was in the early stages but he recalls that he was pretty good at it from the start.
There wasn’t much time to play following his discharge from the Marines. His first priority was employment. His first job was somewhat close to the game, working with a crew building nine holes on a golf course. There was time for brief practice sessions after work. So, Trevino began hitting balls in the evenings, catching the eye of teaching pro Hardy Greenwood.
Greenwood took this young man under his wing, telling Trevino he thought he had the ability to be a professional golfer. From that point, it was hard work and more hard work for Trevino, who was making $100 a week doing nearly every odd job around the driving range and practicing when not working. For three and one-half years, Trevino worked at his game, never playing competitive golf while struggling to make a living. Playing in his first competitive tournament in 1965, as a virtual unknown, he won the Texas State Open and repeated the feat again the next year.
Lee Trevino won his first PGA TOUR event— golf’s most coveted prize— the U.S. Open in 1968. He became the first golfer ever to win a U.S. Open title by shooting all four rounds in the 60s. More important, his success from hard work provided him with a lifetime exemption on the tour. In 1971 he again won the Open by defeating Nicklaus in a storied 18-hole playoff at Merion and later that year was named the PGA TOUR’s Player of the Year. In that season, he turned in an incredible performance by capturing the Canadian Open, the U.S. Open and the British Open all within a span of 45 days.
It is these achievements and many more like them that gave him the reputation to be revered as just TREVINO.
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