- CLASSIC - Side Bets

 Thursday, July 27
Side Bets
 By Bob Carter
Special to

"I teed it up for $5, but that's all I had. If you lost, you were broke. And that's as much pressure as betting $100 or $500 or $1,000," said Lee Trevino about his days as a hustler.

Signature Event

June 21, 1971 - Just before the start of the 18-hole playoff at the U.S. Open against Jack Nicklaus, Trevino was tight. Remembering that his daughter had left a toy snake in his bag, he grabbed it and tossed it to Nicklaus. Momentarily frightened when a woman near him screamed, Nicklaus began laughing, as did the Merry Mex.

Trevino bogeyed the first hole at the Merion Golf Club outside Philadelphia in Ardmore, Pa., but took the lead with pars on the second and third holes while Nicklaus bogeyed and double-bogeyed. Trevino never trailed again.

Merion was a short, narrow course suited for Trevino, who was an accurate but not big hitter. Leading by one stroke after nine holes, Trevino played the back nine in a two-under-par 32 to finish with a 68, three strokes ahead of Nicklaus, and earn $30,000.

"Winning this Open means a great deal more to me than wining in 1968 at Oak Hill," Trevino said. "I think it was the champion golfer Walter Hagen who said, 'Any man can win one Open, but it takes a great player to win two.' "

Trevino by the numbers

Grand Slam Wins
Year Major Score Course Location
1968 U.S. Open 275 Oak Hill CC Rochester, N.Y.
1971 U.S. Open 280 Merion GC Ardmore, Pa.
1971 British Open 278 Royal Birkdale Southport, England
1972 British Open 278 Muirfield Gullane, Scotland
1974 PGA 276 Tanglewood GC Winston-Salem, N.C.
1984 PGA 273 Shoal Creek Birmingham, Ala.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Trevino, who had never played a full round before, played his first junior tournament at 15 and shot a 77 in his first qualifying round.

  • In his early years, Trevino practiced countless hours in between caddying. His work ethic continued throughout his career.

  • Trevino beat Nicklaus by four strokes with his record-tying 275 at the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y. Trevino birdied the 11th and 12th holes on the final round before finishing with six pars to give him his third 69 of the tournament.

  • Trevino was incredibly consistent in his early years on tour. In seasons 2-5 (1968-71), he won 10 titles, had eight second-place finishes and 11 thirds. He won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average in 1970 and '71.

  • Training for the 1972 British Open, Trevino played a round on Orville Moody's course in Killeen, Tex., and ran full-out between shots. He successfully defended his title.

  • His most embarrassing moment probably came at the 1981 PGA Championship in Atlanta. After shooting a 4-over-par 74 in the first round, he was disqualified for failing to sign his scorecard.

  • In winning the 1984 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., he thrived while using a new putter brought for $50 at the Dutch Open a few weeks earlier. Trevino didn't three putt in shooting a 15-under-par 273.

  • Trevino's former longtime caddy Herman Mitchell, who entertained crowds with Trevino, was ill much of the 1990s, suffering from heart trouble and other ailments. Trevino always looked upon him as a member of the family and paid for the best medical care they could find for him.

  • Trevino had 27 wins in 22 years on the PGA Tour, including 167 top 10 finishes.

  • Fans who came to cheer Trevino, the so-called "Lee's Fleas," enjoyed his battles with the popular Nicklaus. Besides winning the 1971 U.S. Open playoff, he also beat Nicklaus by a stroke at the 1972 British Open and the 1974 PGA Championship.

  • At the 1990 U.S. Senior Open, Trevino trailed Nicklaus by a shot entering the final day, then sank six birdies to win by two.

  • Trevino gave the Senior Tour a big boost that year, his first full senior season. Nicklaus played infrequently and at each stop that he didn't play, Trevino made good on a promise: He sent a dozen roses to Jack's wife Barbara.

  • Trevino was 39th on the 1999 Senior Tour money list with $500,103. He had won $411,636 through the end of June 2000.

  • He has won more than $12 million on both the PGA and Senior Tours, including more than $9 million with the seniors, only the third player to pass this mark.

  • Trevino has been married three times. He married his first wife, Linda, in 1962; the marriage lasted less than a year and produced a son, Richard.
  • In 1963, he married his second wife, Claudia, and they had three children. After 19 years of marriage, Claudia asked Trevino for a divorce.

  • In December 1983, Trevino, 44, married another woman named Claudia, 17 years his junior, and they have had two children.

  • His first wife called him a "golf bum," while the second cited the grind of the PGA Tour as one of the reasons for the marriage crumbling.


    SportsCentury biography of Lee Trevino