So the first Open in Texas lived on—and so did a happy driving range owner.
The second U.S. Open in Texas was played at Northwood in Dallas in 1952. The Northwood Open is remembered for its heat, the temperature hovering around 100� throughout a tournament that Ben Hogan dominated but did not win. Hogan led the first two days with 69-69—138, tying the 36-hole record in the Open, but he melted into 74s the last day when two 18-hole rounds were still required. Up ahead of him, a relatively new star, Julius Boros, fell into one of those trances that Open competitors are familiar with. Boros, with an old Carolina friend, Clayton Heafner, walking with him and cheering him on, was up and down in two out of 11 bunkers over the last 36 holes to hang on and win by four strokes.
The same Julius then that he is now, casual and unemotional, Boros greeted his first major victory in a characteristic way. "I need a beer," he said.
Two other major championships have been played in Texas. Jack Nicklaus won the 1963 PGA at the Dallas Athletic Club in much the same kind of heat that Boros survived, and last year Boros, at 48, won the PGA at Pecan Valley in San Antonio. It is worth noting that all five of the big tournaments that have been played in Texas were taken by known players—Craig Wood and Boros in the Open and Hagen, Jack Nicklaus and Boros in the PGA. It suggests that the Open coming up at Champions will be no place for the Jack Flecks.
What will it be for Lee Trevino, Texas' latest contribution to golfing lore?
When Trevino won at Oak Hill last summer, clacking all the way with his Fleas, he looked very much like a one-timer, a happy accident, golf's living credibility gap. But Lee Trevino is alive and well and living at the bank.
He has followed up that Open victory with wins in Hawaii and at Tucson, and he went into June with more than $75,000 in prize money for 1969, which made him the second leading money winner behind Gene Littler. He doesn't care about the fact that few men win back-to-back Opens any more than he cares about the fact that Mexicans aren't supposed to play golf.
Trevino likes Champions, having performed extremely well there a year ago, and Champions may still like him. He drives with a fade, which is something of a must for Open courses since a fade is more easily controlled than a hook and since a fade won't run you into as much of that high Open rough as a hook will. As Jackie Burke has said, "Always hit a fade. You can't talk to a hook."
Moreover, Trevino is a low-ball hitter, and the flat terrain is perfect for him. There will be no hills for him to drive into like those that disturb him so at the Masters. All in all, Trevino goes into this Open with a better chance and a better attitude than most defenders and, regardless of what he shoots, Lee's presence will be felt in Houston, as it is everywhere he goes.
And so it all falls together for what should be a thrilling and unique U.S. Open. The defending champion is, after all, a Texan. And he goes to defend the biggest title there is in his home state. He goes to a truly superb course built by a couple of men who, like him, are brilliant players, amusing personalities and, of course, Texans. They are all part of the same legacy.