At 75, Trevino still loving life, golf and one-liners

At 75, Trevino still loving life, golf and one-liners

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At 75, Trevino still loving life, golf and one-liners

In August, when Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus teamed up for some hit-and-giggle good times at the Champions Tour’s 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minn., the 5-foot-6-inch, 150-pound Player socked his tee shot onto the front of the green at the drivable par-4 seventh hole. As Player made a muscle for the gallery, milking the moment for all it was worth, Trevino grabbed Player’s bicep.

“I said to Gary, ‘Did you ever think you’d live to see the day where we can outdrive Jack Nicklaus?’” Trevino recalled. “And Gary says to me, ‘Did you ever think you’d see the day where we’d be taller than him?’”

Our heroes are aging – gracefully, but they are still getting up there. Player turned 79 on Nov. 1, Trevino celebrated his 75th birthday Monday and Nicklaus isn’t too far behind. He’ll have 75 candles on Jan. 21. As Bob Hope once said, “You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”

The good news is Trevino has declared himself fit as a fiddle, but we’re going to have to take his word for it.

“I’m strong as hell. I haven’t had a physical in 12 years. I haven’t been to a doctor in I can’t tell you how long,” he said. “You know, going to a doctor to me if you feel OK is like taking your car in to have the brakes fixed. They are going to find something else wrong with you. You understand what I’m saying?”

Trevino also said he’s watching his weight these days. “Oh gosh, my wife has me off sugar and bread,” he said. “I snuck a little roll today for lunch, don’t tell. No, I can’t eat pizza. That’s a Friday-night dessert at home. She lets me eat one piece but you know me, I’m going to eat four. I feel so bad after I do it.”

What makes his day still is the act of hitting a golf ball. He used to hit “them dudes” by the thousand and joke about coming from a long line of striped range balls. Twenty-five years ago, the day Trevino became eligible for the Champions Tour, his good friend Bob Murphy phoned at 8 a.m. to wish him a happy birthday. Trevino was already on the course. It’s a safe bet he’s celebrating his birthday by finding fairways and knocking down flags with the new set of irons he raved about recently.

“First time in a long time I couldn’t hear the ball when it landed,” he quipped.

Trevino has a million one-liners, some recycled and some funnier than the best comedian going.

“My wife tells me every day, ‘You’re not funny, you know.’ She says, ‘I’ve heard all that stuff before,’” Trevino recounted recently. “But she bought me a coffee pot and I pushed the button and I put the coffee cup upside down and the coffee went all over the floor. She said, ‘Now that’s funny.’”

These days, Trevino is known more for his jokes than his strokes, and that’s a shame. For all his accomplishments on the course and ballstriking ingenuity, Trevino says the younger generation knows him best for his cameo in the movie “Happy Gilmore.” In honor of Trevino’s 75th birthday, four multiple-tour winners had something to say about Trevino’s impact on their game.

Kenny Perry: “The reason why I was playing golf was because of Lee Trevino. I was probably 7 years old. The Tour used to come to Nashville, which was about 40 minutes from where I lived. I’ll never forget. Lee walked straight over and patted me on the head. He talked to me, said a few words to me. My eyes were as big as quarters. From then on, I told my dad, ‘I’m going to play the PGA Tour.’”

Peter Jacobsen: “First time I met him we were paired together in the final round of the 1978 B.C. Open. I was a second-year player on Tour and on the first nine I shot 32 and Lee shot 39. So I jumped into contention and he’s out of it. We’re walking down the 10th fairway and he grabbed me and said, ‘Hey, son, you’ve really got it going today. You can win this thing here. I said, ‘You’ve still got a chance. You can get back in this thing.’ He said, ‘I’m out of this one. I’ve got mine and I’m going to get mine. I’d like to see you get yours.’ So the entire back nine, he encouraged me on every putt. On the last hole I had a 10-footer and he said, ‘C’mon, knock it in.’ I knocked it in and finished third and won the biggest check of my career. I think it was $18,000. But I’ll never forget that act of kindness. He took that time to help me and that says a lot about Lee Trevino.”

John Mahaffey: “When I was an amateur I qualified for the 1970 U.S. Open at Hazeltine. I tied for low amateur there. He walked up to me after the tournament was over and said, ‘Son, do you plan on playing the Tour?’ I said, ‘I do.’ He said, ‘That little duck hook you’ve got, that’s not going to work.’ He took me to the practice tee at that point and taught me how to fade it and I used it the next week at the NCAA Championship and played pretty well (He won.) At the 1974 Tournament of Champions, I hit the ball up against the fringe on the final hole. I had to two-putt to tie Johnny Miller. I got the putter caught up in the fringe. I didn’t know the bladed shot. I three-putted and lost the tournament. He took me over to the putting green and showed me how to hit the belly wedge. He showed me how to shave strokes around the green. He was a very generous man.”

Paul Azinger: “Trevino put his arm around me a few years into my playing the PGA Tour and said, ‘You’re a shut-face player. Don’t ever change your grip. You’re going to be a helluva player.’ Everyone else said my grip was too strong, I couldn’t play that way. He instilled more confidence in me than I had in myself at the time. He pretty much adopted me as a young player. I’ll never forget I was one of the last guys to switch to the metal driver. Arnie Cunningham was the TaylorMade rep when the clubs came out. Trevino said, ‘How come you’re not hitting one?’ I said, ‘I can’t hit ’em, man.’ He turned around to Arnie and said, ‘Arnie, take one of those TaylorMades, hook it about 2 degrees and put 11 degrees of loft on it.’ He came back out and I never looked back. Trevino probably doesn’t even realize the impact he had on me.”

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