Jaime Diaz & Lee Trevino


Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of Lee Trevino's acceptance speech after being honored by the Captains Club at this year's Memorial Tournament. Noted golf writer Jaime Diaz introduced Trevino. Following is the transcript of the proceedings.

JAIME DIAZ: Thank you, Charlie. Jack and Barbara, members of the Captains Club, distinguished guests. I'm going to be brief because very few people in this world can speak for themselves better than Lee Trevino.

Still it's hard to talk about Lee's life and keep it short. He's lived enough for any four people. Lee never knew his father. He was raised in Dallas by his grandfather and mother in a rural shack without plumbing or electricity. Lee picked cotton at age 5, was a regular in the caddy yard by age 8. He dropped out of school after the 7th grade and joined the Marines on his 17th birthday. When he came back home from Asia in 1960 he channeled the discipline he gained in golf into golf. Worked at a lighted driving range hitting balls day and night or in his off hours playing money games at Tennyson Park or beating every one at a pitch and putt with a Dr. Pepper bottle.

He became an underground legend around Texas, but no one else knew him when he finished fifth the next year in the 1967 U.S. Open. The next year at Oak Hill, he broke 70 all four days and won going away and suddenly everybody knew him. After winning four more Major championships in the next six years he nearly burned himself out, lost a fortunate in bad investments, and in 1975 got hit by lightning and almost died. After major back surgery he won his fifth Vardon trophy in 1980 but then went through a divorce that left him nearly broke again. In 1983 he married the former Claudia Boff and the road got smoother. The next year at age 44 he won the PGA Championship, his sixth major, and final victory on the regular Tour. When he joined the Champions Tour he dominated. Winning the same total of 29 tournaments that he had compiled on the regular T our. A few years ago he bought an old estate three miles from the site of the little shack he grew up in and he lives there today with Claudia and their two children, Olivia and Daniel. Lee is home again, passing on the legend of an amazing life. Lee Trevino is simply an exceptional human being. Smart, tough, funny, reflective, talented in the extreme.

Personally, it's been enough just to have witnessed the artistry and mastery with which he plays. Lee's swing has been described as awkward. One British golf writer called it agricultural. To me it's always been beautiful because it has rhythm and strength and control and balance. Watching Lee hit one pure absolutely flush shot after another on the practice range all the while bantering with his caddy and great friend, Herman Mitchell always made me feel very lucky. A great part of what made him special was that Lee figured it all out himself. Lee Trevino received very little help in life. Yet he's been good at everything he's ever tried.

Sports and all kinds of jobs when he was a kid, he was a machine gun expert as a Marine. Doing one take commercials as a product endorser. His television commentary, story telling, any time. He calls himself an uneducated engineer. Because he can always figure things out. He's a genius at golf because he's as good at the game mentally as he is physically. He learned everything there is to know about the game by digging it out of the dirt. Just like another Texan named Hogan. And it's no coincidence that Hogan in his later years used to sneak out on the course during the Colonial just to watch Trevino. Lee loves golf like very few men ever have. Being around it puts that electric bounce in his movements and especially the humor in his words. Pick up any book of golf quotations and the person with the most pages after his name in the index will be Lee Trevino.

Some have become cliches like "Pressure is playing for five bucks when you have two in your pocket." Or "Two things that don't last, dogs that ch ase cars and pros that putt for pars." Or "When I see lightning I just hold up a 1-iron and keep walking. Even God can't hit a 1-iron." There's a million other lines that are less well known, but just as funny. One day, playing behind Bernhard Langer, who was wearing a beard, Lee said, "He was clean shaven when we teed off."

I always like the one I first heard during the polyester era, said Lee, "I was going to buy me one of them Johnny Miller leisure suits but I heard the fire marshal took them off the racks." Even Johnny laughed at that one. Miller has also been fond of saying that it's not what a man achieves in life, it's what he overcomes. And by that measure, Lee Trevino ranks very high among anyone who ever lived. He was given talent, but nothing in his life has been easy. He would be the first to tell you he's made mistakes, but against all odds, he found a way to make it happen. It's why all of it has been so inspirational. It's so fitting that Lee is being honored today by Jack Nicklaus.

And it's very special to be part of another historical intersection between these two amazing men. They are two very different people. But in the important ways that make champions, very similar. They both always wanted the other to bring his very best. Even though Lee has always said, Jack was the greatest ever to play. It was that confidence and that competitive spirit that made Lee, according to Jack, the toughest to beat of all his opponents. When Lee asked me to introduce him, it was the Monday after this year's Masters. He has said I have never been so happy for a player as he was for Phil Mickelson. You know, he said, it's a beautiful when somebody really shows you how much it means to them. That golf has meant the world to Lee Trevino and his gift to us has been the way he's showed it. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a great privilege to present the 2004 Memorial honoree award to Lee Trevino. Thank you.

LEE TREVINO: Thank you. Thank you very much. Sit down, please. Sit down. The longer you applaud, the less time I have to talk. Is this a great country or what? I started that thing with a commercial in Cadillac. Captains, Barbara, Jack, Joyce Wethered, friends, family, I have certainly appreciate the invitation.

I know when you play a sport like we have played for so many years, dedicated so much time to doing what we have done and accomplished what we have accomplished, it has to start someplace. Jack, I'm sure started with his father, starting him out with playing a little bit. Jack Grout teaching him. I started actually just on a farm hitting golf balls. Caddied as a young man. The thing and the question they have always asked, they said, what is the greatest shot you've ever hit in your life time? Man, we have hit a lot of good ones. And we have hit a lot of them.

But the greatest shot that I can remember ever hitting was actually where Jack won the '63 PGA at D A C in Mesquite Texas. I was actually qualifying for the U.S. Open, go to Baltusrol that year, which Jack won. I -- but it was a par-5, about the 13th hole, I had driven the ball a little too far right. In the rough. There's a little creek down on the right. My ball was on an uphill lie. For are some of you old timers that are here maybe you remember this, it was an Irving King 4-wood. An old laminated 4-wood. You probably, Charles remembers those clubs. I took this 4-wood out, had to go over a tree, I was never a high ball hitter. I was always hitting the ball low. Hit it right over this tree, 235, on the green, holed it for eagle, ended up qualifying for Baltusrol, playing in Baltusrol, finishing fifth and by being a Class A professional I was invited to participate in Cleveland the next week. If I made the cut in Cleveland, being a Class A, I could play in the American golf classic. And then I could go on and on and on. I ended up making 13 cuts that year, won $47,000. There will be guys tip that much this week here. I win $47,000, finished like 40th on the money list, gave me an exemption for '68. Now that's how I got started.

Now, it was a time and it was what I was really looking for, because I had practiced and I had played and I had practiced so much. I met Jack, I think, the following week in Cleveland was the first time. Had not met Arnold Palmer yet. And finishing 47th or 40th on the Money List, I was able to play each and every tournament and make my schedule. Which I played each and every tournament.

Now I was lucky enough to win the U.S. Open. Now we had a rule that if you won a Major championship, PGA or the U.S. Open before the year of 1970, you were actually exempt for life on Tour. In 1968 I had a pretty good year. I had finished second in Houston and then I had finished second in Atlanta, Georgia and we were going to Rochester to play in the '68 U.S. Open at Oak Hill. I kept getting this correspondence in the mail and I kept getting these people calling me and they were writing to me and they wanted me to be a guess at their house.

Now you have to understand, I like to run around the room with not a lot of clothes on, drink a few beers, putt on the carpet. I could chip on the carpet into chairs. I putted, I mean I wake up at midnight I'll take the butter out and I'll hit balls up against the wall. And I kept getting these letters and I kept denying the request to stay at their house. And then I finally got one about a month before and they sent me the pictures of their children. Now that got me. When they start sending the kids pictures, you know, this is what kills you.

Now, Paul Kurcher and his wife Barbara, live in Pittsburgh. They live on Arlington street, not too far from Monroe, if any of you are from up in that area that good old Donald Ross golf course up there. And I accepted the invitation. Little did I know that he had no air conditioning in his house. Never had to hit a practice ball because man I was limber as a rag when I got up every morning, I mean it was a little bit warm. But I ended up staying there and Susan was about two years old, which was the youngest. She's a lawyer now, an attorney. And we ended up winning this golf tournament. Now how in the world -- well I guess how I did it was a 69, 68, 69, 69. Jack couldn't fade that, he finished second, he couldn't fade that, those low scores there.

But I'll never forget when I got to these people's house Barbara was in a black bathing suit. I said, boy, things are looking up here. She is -- it was hot. Black bathing suit and she had a grocery bag stacking old El Paso Mexican tamales in the cupboard. And I said, no true Mexican is going to eat Mexican food north of the Mason-Dixon, I'm going to tell you. Ended up winning the golf tournament, they have been lovely friends for Sundays I've been on Tour. We stay in touch with each other. Paul is an executive on his own company, he's an insurance broker, pitched a little bit for the Yankees. Paul Kurcher and Barbara, would you stand up, please. These are my good friends from Pittsburgh. You are looking good, Barbara, you are looking good, I tell you. But that was one of the greatest experiences that I've ever had, because winning -- by the time I got home after the media and everything, they were all signs all over the houses and everything, and we came up there.

But we played and then I was lucky enough to win again the U.S. Open in '71, with Jack, as you well know. I won two British Opens back to back. And that was in '71 and '72. But then Jack started this particular tournament. And this is one of the reasons that we are here. When Jack told me that he was building a golf course here in Ohio, down in Dublin Ohio, going to call it Muirfield, had his first tournament in 1976, we came here and it doesn't surprise me, Jack, it doesn't surprise me one little bit about how successful and how you treat this golf tournament. And how you run it and how your family's involved in it. And the people that are working with you to make this, not only the greatest, it's already great, the greatest golf tournament that's ever been. And there's no question about that.

But when we came here the first year it was, there wasn't anything out here. An old road. You drove up. And it was so funny because you think Ohio State had played USC that year in the Rose Bowl. And Coach Hayes was coming down the road walking. I said now what's Coach Hayes doing walking down the road. I said, you know. So I stopped and Herman Mitchell was in the front seat. And I believe that was when USC had Anthony Davis or O. J. Simpson, I don't remember who was running for them as a running back. And Coach Hayes gets in the car, Herman gets in the back seat, and I looked over at Coach Hayes and I said Coach Hayes, I said do you have a good running back this year? Oh, he said, I don't have much. And before any -- before I could say another word, Herman jumps up from the back seat and he says USC has got a good one. And man, I almost died. I was fixing to jump out of that car.

But what he has done with this golf tournament, we were talking about this earlier, with some of the media people. And one of the best tournaments that we had played and Jack had played in it many times was Colonial. Colonial was the first to take care of the players. And they had the food and the dining room and they actually catered to the player. When Jack came here, Jack in the grill started a buffet. We had never seen anything like that. Remember.

He was the first to come out with one of the most gorgeous driving ranges we had ever seen. Brand new golf balls. In other words, on the practice tee. He had, I guess I think they were MacGregors, am I correct? The old balls? Oh, you don't play for MacGregor any more, okay. So we're talking about '76, see, he doesn't remember. He doesn't remember all those things way back. But people are always talking about and they always ask me about Jack. And the media is always trying to say we had a rivalry. Nobody ever had a rivalry with this guy. I mean come on. We played in tournaments and I won a couple and he won a bunch.

And that's the way that it was. It was always that way. I happen to have won f our major championships in this country and he will be the first to tell you they were all in the mud. Every one of them were in the mud. Because I learned to play golf low trajectory and when the greens got hard, fairways got hard, I wasn't able to bump and run the ball into the greens, I wasn't able to stop them. That's one of the reasons I could never play Augusta. I tried to tell Jack many years ago I couldn't play Augusta. Jack talked me into going back. I left there, I didn't play for three years, Jack says you got to play an Augusta, you belong there. I believed him. I went back. And I said I keep pecking that ball out there 185 yards, it runs 20 and I'm hitting 3 irons to all the far fours, you're hitting wedges. He said, oh, no, you can play this course. I said, Jack, it's too long for me. Oh, no, you can play this course.

Three years ago they lengthened the course 500 yards. He went back. Played from where I used to play from. Yeah. He played from where I used to play from an he shot 83, 76. I said, now Jack, I'm trying to tell you, he you see, you would have never won 6 times you would have played from back there, see. But that's the way that Augusta was. But we have been friends for along, long time. And we appreciate each other very much and respect each other. But the thing -- and I've said this many many times, and I've learned a lot and as Jaime was reading the buy owe there and he told you I came up a real tough way and it's tough, it's absolutely difficult to change a guy that's, that is not -- you got to be trained a little bit. You got to know what you're doing. And I was a good golfer, but I wasn't socially, I wasn't, not polished, but you know I wasn't there. Jack helped me out a lot.

Because I used to observe Jack. And I wasn't jealous of him, but I was wondering why he was doing it, simply because I never did it before. And the one thing and Jack knows exactly what I'm going to say is I never realized that you could be a dad and still play golf. And the way Jack and I'm sure that his kids are treating his grand kids the way he treated them, because his father probably treated him the same way. But Jack would go play in a tournament, he would come late because Nan was playing a volleyball tournament. Or Steve was, he played tight end for Florida state. He was there. Or Jackie was playing in a tournament. Or this. And Jack was always trying to jockey his schedule to spend with the kids. I was never like that. I said, let their mother take them. Don't worry about it. I'm going to hit some balls, I'll see this, I'll see you then.

Barbara had a lot to do with it. My wife Claudia after we had Daniel, which is 11 years old and Olivia, which is 15, I finally realized what parenting was all about and what Jack had done all this time. And how he had raised his kids. I'm having the time of my life. And these kids hopefully -- and one of the reasons that I'm doing this and I'm 64 years old, I have a 11 year old boy and every time I see a little boy I says, have you hugged and kissed your dad today? You know. You ever see them on television? Hi mom? Hi mom. None of them ever say, hey, dad, what's happening? Hi dad. It's always hi mom, you understand. Hug your dad. Hug your dad and kiss him. Don't worry about it. They're not going to make fun of you.

But my wife Claudia is standing here and she's helped me a tremendous amount with this. Claudia, stand up a minute. But I just want to say just a real proud day for me this is. I didn't -- when Jack called me, it was the funny yes, sir thing because I read something where Jack says he could never figure me out I was always a very difficult guy to figure out. I think the reason that I played as well as I did against Jack is simply because I have said it many times, if I was in the group with him, or I was near where he was playing, I have already won. I've already won because I'm not supposed to be there. And I've always -- when Jack was in a golf tournament, we figured, that's the guy we have got to beat. We have got to beat Jack. Because we knew that he was going to be right there at the top.

But I just wanted to say to each and everybody, that when Jack called me up, I had figured him out before he ever called. Because I said to my wife, going to a baseball game with my 11 year old son, I said, today is Wednesday, they're inducting the honoree into the Memorial tournament today, they're having the captains dinner tonight, they're going to select an honoree for next year, and it wouldn't surprise me if it's not me. It's getting right around my time. And I swear this on a stack of bibles and it's a cloudy day, that we sit down to watch this little baseball game, we had been seated about 10 minutes, the phone rings, it's Jack. And he says, hey pro, he said you just got elected, da, da, da. I said, I appreciate it. I'll be glad to be there.

I wanted to tell you one other little story before we go here. And this is, I got this from a friend of mine, I told him, I said, my wife golf has been so good to me, and that the house that I live in now is, we bought an old house in Dallas. It's got this swimming pool right next to the house. My wife wants the swimming pool moved over. She said you're going to run out of the house you're going to fall in the pool. Move the pool over there. I said, don't worry about it, I'll get some of the guys that I know, my boys, they will move the pool. She says, no no no, no, you're not doing this. She calls the contractor, I come out there, he's got all my boys moving it over there. I said you see, I could have done this.

So I leave them alone. Two weeks later I come back the swimming pool is finished. I had never met the contractor. I had never met any of the workmen. I walked around the house, they're all in the swimming pool swimming. One of the guys says to me, he says, hey, guy, he says, come on in. He said the owner's not here. See. So I -- I tell you, I'm very respectful of the tradition that you carry on at this golf tournament, Jack. It is something that will live forever and every and ever. And as we talked about at our lunch on today , you cannot have these golf tournaments without the patrons. Without these people that are willing to watch these players play, championship golf, without having a facility like you have here, without our sponsors, and without a lot of people that give a lot of work, the 3,000 volunteers that we probably have here this week, and all the sleepless nights from watching the weather channel to see if you're going to finish this thing, it would never be possible.

And I wouldn't be standing here today receiving this prestigious award. And from my heart, God bless each and every one ever you. Thank you very much.

The transcript for the above speech is courtesy of The Wire.


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