The bets mount,
in presses and double presses, and before long Lee is standing in the 18th
fairway, 210 yards from the pin, facing head on into a gale. He needs a strong
finish to make the day a substantial success. With a one-iron he drills the
ball under the wind. It strikes 30 yards from the pin, skitters up to the green
and comes to rest five feet below the cup. "Goin' to Ju�rez tonight,"
Lee chirps. "Need some money for the dog track. Man, I hit that sunnabitch
quail high." Stepping briskly up to his putt, he rifles it into the cup for
an eagle 3. He then throws a burlesque-queen bump at his victims and walks off
spottin' them 80, 90 yards a hole, on the average," Lee says while driving
to Ju�rez that night. "And I've told them I'm gonna give 'em par for a
partner tomorrow, meaning the worst they can score on any hole is a par.
Shucks, these guys help me get into shape. I don't want to beat members out of
The next day,
Martin Lettunich tracks down Lee in the clubhouse. "Where'n hell you
been?" he demands. "We're ready to go. You givin' us par for a
wind!" shrieks Trevino. "Not a chance."
is sitting at the bar, explaining that he originally hired Lee at a salary of
$30 a week, plus whatever he could earn from giving lessons. Last year Donny
and Cousin Jesse became Lee's backers on the pro tour and wound up selling him
a one-third interest in the club under an arrangement that pays him a salary of
$1,000 a month and temporarily provides him with a furnished apartment on the
grounds. Also they set up a fund that now enables Lee. while on tour, to write
checks. "I always write checks for $200," Lee says, "because it's a
nice round figure." Where, asks Donny, could they find another pro capable
of blending so well with Horizon's peculiar membership?
Lee!" a distinguished, gray-haired gentleman calls from a table. "You
goin' down to Houston next week, ain't you? My wife says she's goin' down to
protocol toward members being somewhat informal at Horizon Hills, Lee responds,
"Maybe she got somethin' goin' for her."
Lee arrived at
Horizon Hills two years ago dead broke, having traveled a trail that was hardly
calculated to lead him to alpaca sweaters and sirloin steak. Along with two
sisters, he was raised by his mother and grandfather, the latter a gravedigger,
in a four-room frame house that had neither electricity nor inside plumbing. It
stood in a hayfield by the Glen Lakes Country Club, outside of Dallas. Lee's
first exposure to golf came when, at the age of 6, he found a left-handed iron
that had been thrown into the hayfield. Being right-handed, he simply turned
the club around, hitting with the tip of the blade in the fashion of the great
trick-shot artist, Paul Hahn. A bit later Lee stumbled upon a right-handed iron
in the hayfield. "In those days," he says, "if you could afford to
play golf, you could afford to throw away clubs. I made me a two-hole course in
the pasture, and when they cut the hay in summer I had me the plushest course
you ever seen."
Though he caddied
at Glen Lakes and sneaked in a few holes at dusk, Lee took no serious interest
in the game, being compelled to quit school after the seventh grade and go to
work. But when he was 19 and already serving the second of two hitches in the
Marines, he glanced at a bulletin-board notice announcing tryouts for the Third
Marine Division golf team. "Shucks, I know a little about that game,"
he told himself. His executive officer, weighing Lee's request for permission
to try out, challenged him to a round in order to evaluate his game. "I
waxed him," says Lee.
In time he waxed
the entire division team, and two years later emerged from the Marines a
skillful, if not especially stylish, golfer. In Dallas, Lee went to work as a
pro at a par-3 course. Presently he married Claudia, and to make ends meet he
began enticing lesser golfers into irresistible matches. He would agree to use
left-handed clubs, or, if given half a stroke a hole, he would play the entire
par-3 course equipped only with an empty Dr. Pepper bottle—the one-quart family
size. "I can hit a ball 100 yards with a Dr. Pepper bottle," Lee says.
"I can control it fairly well, too. In fact, I never lost a bet using that
bottle. I once won $90 playing two holes. A fella said, 'I'll play you a hole
for $45,' and then he insisted on one more hole. I think Claudia and me blew
the whole $90 that night."