SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
December 20, 1971
For his superlative performance—in one month he won three national championships—and, even more, for adding a new dimension to his sport, Lee Trevino earns the award for 1971
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December 20, 1971

A Common Man With An Uncommon Touch

For his superlative performance—in one month he won three national championships—and, even more, for adding a new dimension to his sport, Lee Trevino earns the award for 1971

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If golf ever needed a certain kind of a man to dull the harsh scorn of its critics, he was found in 1971. Golf found Lee Trevino, a common man with an uncommon touch who has bewitched, bothered and bewildered the custodians of the game's mores. What Lee Trevino has done is take the game out of the country club boardroom and put it in the parking lot where everybody—not just doctors and lawyers but Indian chiefs, too—can get at it. Trevino's special appeal is to the poor, the minorities, the people who before his emergence as a star could never make a reality of golf the way they could of baseball, say, or football or boxing. This distinction is never more apparent than when Trevino stands against the other eminences of the game: Palmer and Nicklaus, Casper and Player.

For the most part, these men had earned and cornered what present-day big-time golf was about before Lee Trevino—big homes with swimming pools, conglomerates, armies of middle-class followers. Then he came along, exploding our myths, massaging our viscera, yapping, yapping, yapping.

Bobby Goldsboro, the singer and a close friend, has described Trevino's impact. "Every time Lee talks about winning, it is of the hard work it took to get ahead," says Goldsboro. "He is talking to those kids who are living the way he used to, telling them what they must do. It's nice to believe that some of them will turn out all right because of Lee."

In El Paso right now, at any ceremonial occasion where the name of Lee Trevino is invoked, that city's "Singing Policeman," Ramon Rendon, bursts into his rendition of Don Isidro A. Dovali's now classic, Qu� Viva Lee Trevino :

Qu� Viva Lee Trevino, El Super-Mexicano.
Qu� Viva Lee Trevino...ser un campe�n completo.

Beneath the lyrics' surface lie the tales of driving ranges, Band-Aids covering tattoos, wild parties, Marine details, gag lines, Lee's Fleas, the bad swing, the hustle, the popularity—in short, a total cabbages and kings scenario—but they would be nowhere without Trevino's ability to hit a golf ball and to win tournaments.

His victory in the U.S. Open at Rochester in 1968, fashioned while playing against one of the finest artisans on the tour, Bert Yancey, and while being pressured by Jack. Nicklaus thundering up ahead, was considered a fluke—until he won the Hawaiian Open later in the year and finished the season with $132,127 in prize money. In 1969 he won the Tucson Open, the World Cup individual prize and more than $100,000 again. In 1970, though his only two victories came early in the year, Trevino accomplished what he likes to refer to as "the triple crown." He was the leading money-winner with $157,037, led the Exemption Point Standings and won the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average.

This summer Trevino's achievement of winning the Open championships of the United States, Canada and Great Britain in less than a month was the stuff of which instant legends are made. But a quick examination of the few weeks prior to his historical feat reveals just how well he was playing. In the six weeks after the tour arrived in Texas in May, he accomplished the following:

Dallas—Tied for second, one stroke back of the leader going into the last round; finished tied for fifth.

Houston—Eleven shots back after 36 holes, tied for the lead with five holes to play; missed the playoff by one shot.

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