US golfer Lee Trevino raises the cup to his lips after winning the 100th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Golfing Legacies: Lee Trevino
When it comes to golfing legacies, it’s hard to get more iconic than Lee Trevino. Of Mexican-American descent, Trevino is also known as ‘The Merry Mex’ and ‘Supermex’.
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Born in 1939 on December 1st, Lee Trevino is from Garland, Texas, and has Mexican ancestry. He was raised by his mother and grandfather and began working in the cotton fields at age 5 to earn money.
Trevino was introduced to golf by his uncle and later became a caddie for the Dallas Athletic Club. After work, he would hit shots into the holes behind the shack as practice.
Many of these holes had hard ground and little grass, many say this is what helped Trevino develop his signature shot style. With his self-taught plays, Trevino’s compact swing and controlled ‘fade’ has been described as unorthodox but effective.
At the age of 17, Trevino joined the United States Marine Corps and served for 4 years until 1960. During his service, Trevino played golf with fellow Marine officers and participated in Armed Forces golf events in Asia.
After discharge from the military, Trevino worked as a professional in El Paso, Texas. In 1966 he qualified for his first US Open and finished tied for 54th. The next year he qualified again and finished 5th. That 1967 season had Trevino be awarded the PGA tour rookie of the year.
He won his first US Open the next year in 1968, just 4 strokes ahead of Jack Nicklaus. Trevino and Nicklaus continued to be rivals throughout the early 1970s. In 1970 Trevino was in the lead for prize money.
In 1971, Trevino had an impressive streak of wins. He beat Nicklaus in the 1971 US Open, 2 weeks later he won the Canadian Open, and the week after he won The Open Championship. Trevino is the first player to win all 3 of those titles in the same year.
He became the first person to defend The Open Championship since Arnold Palmer a decade prior in 1962.
Trevino made history in 1974 as the first person to win a PGA Tour individual event without hitting any bogeys, he did this at the Greater New Orleans Open. This wouldn’t be accomplished again until 2019 with J. T. Poston at the Wyndham Championship.
In 1975 he was unfortunately struck by lightning and suffered injuries to his spine. He required multiple surgeries, one of which was to remove a damaged spinal disk. These surgeries caused him to have back problems.
Despite his injuries hindering his play, he won 3 PGA Tours in 1980. He won his 6th and final PGA Championship in 1984 and then retired from the Tour due to back injuries.
Thanks to his impressive career Trevino became a color analyst for the NBC PGA Tour coverage from 1983 to 1989.
Throughout his career, Trevino won 6 major championships and 29 PGA Tour events. The only championship that escaped him was the Masters Tournament which he placed in the top 10 in 1975 and 1985.
He is one of only 4 players to twice win the US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981.
Being from a poverty background, Trevino understands the importance of helping others. This has led to him establishing scholarships and financial aid to other Mexican-Americans.
Trevino also has a street named after him, that being Lee Trevino Drive in El Paso, Texas. There are also streets in Rio Rancho and Belen named in his honor.
In the 2000 issue of Golf Digest, Trevino was named the 14th greatest golfer of all time.
Not only was Lee Trevino known for his impressive golf game, but he was also an approachable and humorous person. He has been frequently quoted by the press for his witty and memorable lines. His most iconic line was, “I’ve been hit by lightning and been in the Marine Corps for four years. I’ve traveled the world and been about everywhere you can imagine. There’s not anything I’m scared of except my wife.” This attitude also led to him having a cameo in the 1996 comedy film ‘Happy Gilmore’.
Trevino has become an icon to many Mexican-Americans thanks to his down-to-earth personality and hard-working attitude. He is self-taught and gained his skills through determination and a love for golf.