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It's An Old Man's Game After All
Barry McDermott
August 27, 1984
Lee Trevino, 44, won the PGA with a record-shattering performance
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August 27, 1984

It's An Old Man's Game After All

Lee Trevino, 44, won the PGA with a record-shattering performance

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The golfers were impressed with several things about Shoal Creek. "No white paint anywhere," Sutton noted, referring to the spray officials use to outline ground under repair. And there was the rough. It was only four inches high, but it was Bermuda grass, hardy stuff that thrives in the South. Hitting a ball from long Bermuda rough is tougher than picking a flea off a sheep dog. "It's like having water hazards on both sides of the fairway," said Trevino. In fact, he had nightmares about the stuff. On Saturday he was up at 7 a.m., swinging his metal driver in the bedroom of his rented house. "What are you doing?" asked his wife Claudia, 26. "I think I'm shufflin' my stance too much," said Trevino.

Trevino has a dual personality; he's gregarious but also very private. On stage, he's all laughs; off it, he's almost a recluse. Before Sunday's round, he crumpled and threw away a bunch of unread messages taped to his locker. "This is what I do with those," he said. "Nobody gave me nothing coming up. I don't need anything now." But he's been the people's and hackers' choice for almost two decades.

As remarkable as Trevino was, Player matched him almost to the end. The persevering South African was not only gunning to become the first to win a major championship in four different decades, but also to defend his way of life, with its Spartan regimen that emphasizes positive thinking, health food, exercise and most anything else that Jack LaLanne stands for. His Friday round was a masterpiece, the brush that created it being a new putting stroke that was really an old putting stroke. Player grew up using an abrupt jab, in the manner of South Africa's Bobby Locke, who's often cited as the best putter ever. But in recent years Player had gotten away from the short follow-through. Five minutes before teeing off Friday, he went back to it. The result was a 10-birdie 30-33—63, the best round in the tournament's history.

Trevino began Saturday tied with Player and Wadkins at seven under, but got four birdies and an eagle to go 13 under after seven holes. His front-nine score of 30 had Player shaking his head. Walking to the 10th tee, Player told him, "I said yesterday it would be a long time before anyone shoots 30 here again. It took one day."

"Yeah, and I missed that little putt," said Trevino, meaning the 4�-footer he'd failed to make on the 8th hole.

Trevino came to the 18th leading Wadkins by three shots and Player by four. Then he hit his only bad drive of the round, into a fairway bunker. Instead of pitching out, he went for the green, found a lake and made a double bogey.

"I'm not conceding anything," Wadkins said cockily. Trevino told his friends, " Wadkins is who I have to beat."

On Sunday, Trevino holed a 60-foot birdie putt on the 1st hole, birdied the 3rd, and then made his only bogey at the 189-yard 5th, out of a bunker. Meanwhile, Wadkins made three birdies and took the lead. But sometimes playing without fear can get you in trouble, especially at Shoal Creek. Wadkins freewheeled a drive on the 11th into the rough and bogeyed, then three-putted 12. Now Trevino was ahead by a stroke, and dictating the play. And like everyone who grew up hustling bets with his clubs, Trevino is a virtuoso in front. "He's making every putt," Player said ruefully as he walked down the 14th fairway. Finally Wadkins, trying for the spectacular, bogeyed the last two holes. "When you're young, you always say, 'It's inevitable. You're going to win,' " Trevino would say later. "But when you're old, the inevitable is over with."

Not really.

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