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Jim Murray

A Stroke of Luck--or Genius?

November 30, 1987|Jim Murray

LA QUINTA — It is the luckiest shot in golf. It shouldn't count. The worst players in the world have made one. Art Wall made 46. Ben Hogan never made one.

It's usually a lousy shot. Sometimes it hits two trees and a cart path on the way to the hole.

It usually just means you have to buy the drinks for the club. The manufacturer bronzes the ball for you. It's a duffer's dream, an opponent's nightmare. Hell, even I hit one once.

But, probably the most famous hole in one in history was struck here at PGA West on Sunday by the man they call Super Mex. Most of the thousands of holes in one struck each year are remembered only by the guys who hit them. No one ever writes a book on how to make one.

But Lee Buck Trevino's ace on the 17th hole at this golf course Sunday is one for the ages. It'll go down with Babe Ruth's called shot, Bobby Thomson's Little Miracle of Coogan's Bluff, the block Jerry Kramer made in the playoff game, Doyle Nave's Rose Bowl pass.

It's Instant History. They not only should bronze the ball, they should bronze the 6-iron. If they can ever get it away from Lee Trevino.

In golf, it'll rank with Gene Sarazen's double-eagle at Augusta in 1934, Lew Worsham's wedge shot at Tam O'Shanter in 1953, or the shot Bobby Jones skipped across the water to win the Open at Interlachen in 1930.

All most people get out of a hole in one is a memory. Lee Trevino got $175,000.

It was only the second hole in one Lee Trevino ever made. He pulled one off at a tournament in Pleasant Valley ten years ago but he had a hangover at the time. He made seven on the next hole.

At PGA West Sunday, he won a car on the next hole. The day turned out to be a Lee Trevino benefit. So did the whole tournament.

What would you think you had to do to get $285,000 in one morning? Hold up a stagecoach? Knock over a bank? Crack a safe? Write a book? Guess all the consonants on "Wheel Of Fortune"? Hit the state lottery?

How about just walking around a gorgeous piece of desert real estate in 75-degree weather with the humidity at 25%, wind out of the west and the birds singing and the sun shining?

You have to bring a set of golf clubs, of course, but they'll get someone to carry them for you. There's no heavy lifting, you've got the latest in sports fashion to wear, no greens fees and a plane is waiting to take you home to the bank.

You would think you died and went to heaven? That the alarm will go off in a minute and your feet will have to hit the cold floor and get ready for another day at the office?

Nope, what you have done is made one of the most elite clubs in sports, the field of the annual Skins Game, America's Giveaway, $450,000 for just 18 holes of golf, just beating three other players.

All this and a hole in one, too? God must love Lee Buck Trevino.

He didn't give him Sam Snead's swing, a rich father, a Harvard education, but when you put a golf club in his hands, it's look-out, world! Putting him on a golf course is like putting Attila the Hun on horseback.

I don't suppose Lee Trevino has been scared of anything in his life, much less a 165-yard carry to a green that's got more water around it than the Titanic. There's almost no place to put the ball except the hole. The green wouldn't make a good closet. If you put a phone in it, it would qualify as a booth.

It was the best thing that could happen to this tournament. It was no bad thing for all golf.

Trevino is the stuff of legend in golf. The gritty Mexican who took up the country club game historically reserved for the sons of the rich, who beat the college kids at their own game, who had to learn to play under the direst of circumstances where a bad shot didn't mean you didn't win, it meant you didn't eat.

The ballad of Lee Trevino is one that should be sung over the campfires out on the ranges of West Texas and in the border chili joints from El Paso to Nogales.

Lee didn't learn the game in the tiny manicured fairways of the gold coast of Florida or 17-mile drive in Monterey, he learned it where you had to sweep the rattlesnakes off the tees first, where the wind blew 350 days a year and you sometimes had to learn to putt in the dark.

A Skins Game is not to be confused with a British Open, it's not even the Isuzu Kapalua.

But, you had a field which has won 169 championships in the foursome. And Lee Trevino has won 27 of them. The field has won 36 major championships. And Lee Trevino has won 6 of those.

You didn't get elected to this club. You shot your way into it. And no one started farther down the ladder than Lee Trevino. No one ever sent a car for Lee Trevino. Lee Trevino won a U.S. Open with socks that didn't match, shoes with cleats missing and some golf clubs he got out of a barrel.

Lee does not suffer defeat gracefully, probably a holdover from the days when defeat meant you ate standing up for a month.

When he missed a five-footer on Saturday and only came out with $25,000 of the $225,000 up for the day, Trevino didn't come in the press tent, he stormed home to practice putting on his hotel rug.

On one of the most important holes of his life, he didn't need any putts.

Trevino has hit far better shots than the one that skipped in the cup at No. 17 on Sunday. He has hit shots that won 2 British Opens, 2 U.S. Opens, 2 PGAs and 23 other big tournaments.

He may have hit a lot more desperate shots no one knows about in the dew at Tennison Park to close out the local sandbaggers.

But, Babe Ruth hit 713 home runs besides the one he pointed to in the '32 World Series. Jerry Kramer blocked a lot of guys. Trevino's will be remembered as an ace of aces, the most dramatic one anybody ever pulled out of a bag--or a deck.

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