galleries soon found themselves cocking their ears for the whimsical
reflections that Lee uttered as he made his way around sedate Augusta National.
In the opening round. for example, he stood in the froghair and chipped far
past the hole. "I didn't know no way to play it," he innocently
announced. At 18 his tee shot seemed headed straight for a distant bunker.
'"Sit down! Sit down!" he cried to the ball. The drive sat down—a full
20 yards short of the bunker. "Who do I think I am, Jack Nicklaus?" Lee
mused. Going into the final round, he lay only two strokes off the lead, but he
became involved in a series of naval expeditions in the Augusta National
waters. Finally he arrived on the 18th green, where he informed the surrounding
throng, "I gotta two-putt this for an 80." Having two-putted, Lee then
piped, "It ain't the 80 I'm worried about. Why I'm worried is when I get
home my wife is gonna kick me all over the golf course."
Trevino has yet to win an official PGA tournament, possibly because of a
paradox in his makeup. Though a compulsive gambler off the course, he decided
from the beginning to play it scrupulously safe on the tour. Having been
penniless the greatest part of his life, he regarded $2,000, say, as a bonanza
and preferred to move cautiously, keeping his ball in play, rather than risk
chancy shots that might bring him a $20,000 first prize. A spectator once
called to him on the practice green, "Pretend you have to make this to
tie." Lee turned to the man and bluntly replied, "I'd lay it up and
settle for second place."
But in May, at
the Houston Champions International, the voice that at card tables tells Lee to
go for broke won out. One stroke off the lead going into the final round, he
promised himself, "I'm going after the 20 grand." Shooting for the
pins, disdaining the middle of the greens, he seized the lead, then fell into a
tie with Roberto De Vicenzo. On the final green he succumbed to pressure.
"I couldn't even see that cup," he admitted after blowing a four-foot
putt that dropped him to second-place money of $12,000.
Today there are
those who, for a good reason, rate him a serious dark horse wherever major
tournaments are played on tight courses. The reason certainly is not his swing,
which can be found in none of the instructional books. "I got a wide-open
stance," Lee says, "and, hell, I got my feet pointed 60 yards to the
left of the green. I aim to the left and throw the club out to the right. I try
to push the ball to the green. It's the way I learned to play. I don't know any
other way. Say, it's worked for a while, hasn't it?"
Somehow it has,
and the drives that whistle off Lee's woods are the reason why he's a threat on
narrow fairways. Though only of average distance, his tee shots behave
beautifully, rarely carrying him into the rough. They travel at a height that
almost would enable a fairly rangy first baseman to reach up and stab them. On
Lee's El Paso training grounds, you see, there is no other way to play, for an
ordinary day in April or May finds the wind blowing at 35 mph, which means that
the golfer who puts his ball high in the air is a loser. "I've played in
60-mile winds," Lee says. And why not, when Horizon Hills members are
standing by with wallets waiting to be tapped?
situated like a lost drifter in country that is sand, rock and mesquite, is not
precisely the sort of club where one would expect to find a successful
tournament pro. For the past four years it has been operated as a business
enterprise by Jesse Whittenton, a raw-boned former Green Bay Packer defensive
back, and his cousin, Donny Whittington, a handsome, debonair man who explains
that he and Jesse have spelled their surnames differently ever since their
fathers had an argument years ago. "Jesse's dad changed the spelling,"
Donny says. "Hey, Jesse, what was that argument about, anyhow?" Jesse
says damned if he knows. Anyhow, for a $250 initiation fee and $20 monthly
dues, anybody can join Horizon Hills and take a crack at defeating its
fairways, which slowly are yielding grass but in the meantime offer an
experience somewhat akin to golfing on broken pavement. The greens, however,
are excellent, and management is pouring a million gallons of water a day into
the fairways, confident that before long Horizon Hills will be an emerald in
As it is, the
club prospers with a full-to-capacity membership of 554, which is drawn there
by a boisterous frontier atmosphere that would strike most outsiders as a
travesty of country club mores. For example, the members enjoy recalling the
day when Frank Cromeens, a 260-pound truck-line tycoon, and Bob Long, who sells
Cromeens his insurance, were playing in a foursome accompanied by two bar carts
manned by barmaids in skintight gold lame. At one point Cromeens accused Long
of cheating and slugged him with an iron, breaking two of his ribs. Delighted
with himself, the hefty tycoon collapsed to the ground, nearly delirious with
laughter. The insurance man thereupon climbed into his cart and drove it
straight over his client. "Frank wasn't much hurt," says Donny
Whittington. "He just had tracks up his shirt."
Now it is a fine
spring day, with gusts up to 40 mph, and Lee Trevino is charging across the
course in a cart that flies over humps and out of gullies at teeth-jarring
speed. He is playing in a five-some, which for Horizon Hills is rather a small
group. Each man pilots his own death machine, followed by a gallery of 10 who
have made do with seven carts. The betting among players and gallery rages fast
and furious, as does the play itself. First-man-to-his-ball hits is the rule
that prevails, the result being that only Divine Providence seems to preserve
the participants from a crossfire of fairway shots that would cause a prudent
observer to keep an ambulance standing by. Pouring hell for leather down a
slope, the golfers and spectators suggest a band of Sioux attacking a wagon
winter, when the course isn't as crowded," says Donny Whittington, chopping
along in his cart, "there'll be 15 or 18 of 'em playing in one group. Well,
actually, they'll start out in two groups, but they'll join together at No. 10
in order to increase the action. Most I've ever seen go 18 holes is a
known around the club as F Troop, is a motley but deceiving group. Martin
Lettunich, for example, is a roughhewn, unshaven man who wears a red leather
hunting cap and a cheap blue golf shirt that billows over his beer belly,
exposing his flesh at times. He farms cotton and is said to be worth millions.
None of the others are hurting either. At any rate, a great deal of cussing
fills the air, and everyone makes sure that Lee tees off 40 to 100 yards behind
the others, depending on the hole. At No. 4 he stands knee deep in desert
brush, teeing off from behind a hill that lies on the far side of a pond. Thus
far in the round he has been playing poorly, because, he explains, "I had
too much giggle juice before I went out."