Bruce Lietzke had another top-30 season on the Champions Tour in 2006, the sixth straight time he finished among the tour's elite. But it was a season of transition off the course. Lietzke and his wife Rose left their Plano, Texas, house outside Dallas for a 630-acre ranch 70 miles southeast of Big D.
The Lietzkes, whose two children are in college, made the move a bit sooner than anticipated. "Our grand plan was to move to this ranch at the end of 2008," Lietzke said last week at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. "Because we had an 11-car garage in Dallas, our real-estate person convinced me there weren't any other idiots out there who want an 11-car garage and that it probably would take a couple of years to sell. But it sold the second day it was on the market."
Settling into a smaller, existing house on the property until their new home is constructed, the couple has adjusted easily to the rural life. "I've got two records," said Rose, "the biggest wild hog we've shot [140 pounds] and biggest bass [7 pounds, 9 ounces]. I did some mowing last week."
"I just built my barn," Bruce said. "It's more of a car barn, but I do have a couple of tractors. I had my tractor on the highway going down to the gas station recently, with people honking their horns behind me. I really felt like a rancher then. We've gone from city folk to sort of country folk in a short period."
Lietzke was pleasantly surprised when he found out his spread is the same acreage as the late Byron Nelson's Fairway Ranch. "That jumped out at me when I started reading articles after Mr. Nelson died," he said. "There have been some parallels between our lives. He played just enough to buy that ranch. I played just enough to maintain my lifestyle. I admire a man who retired when he did. I asked him several times if he had any regrets, and he looked at me with those beautiful eyes of his and said not one time."
The bulk of Lietzke's property, about 400 acres, is planted with hay whose harvesting he contracts out. "The hay qualifies me as a rancher," Lietzke said. "Some day we may have some friendly horses. I'm trying to keep it low-maintenance."
Lietzke has been famous for staying away from golf when he is off the tour, and that isn't going to change. "No golf holes," he said. "The guy in the ranch across the highway from me has six greens, five or six fairways and a lot of tee boxes. So he has got 18 holes, all with an irrigation system. I can promise you not one blade of grass on my ranch will be wasted on golf."