I'm going to buy the Alamo and give it back to Mexico.—Lee Trevino, after winning the 1968 U.S. Open.
When I turn 40, I'm going home and count my money. I'm going to have it stacked in bales. I'll just sit there and grin.—Trevino, circa 1972.
Things didn't work out the way Lee Buck Trevino thought they would. Texas kept the Alamo and the money went south, and so, at 41, Trevino keeps writing new chapters to his improbable story, a largely triumphant saga speckled with calamity. He has been hit by lightning and has made and lost a fortune. His back all but gave out on him. And yet he keeps going, finishing No. 2 on the money list last year, winning the Tournament of Champions this year, heading for the U.S. Open at Merion next week, swaggering and strutting, touching everyone as he goes, and leaving in his wake a string of birdies and one-liners and the feeling that he's special.
Trevino's life contains not a whit of predictability. There has never been any 9-to-5 in him, not from the ragamuffin days when he was a kid playing in a Texas cemetery, not when he was a ruffian Leatherneck stationed in the Pacific, or a small-time hustler in Big D who went to sleep with the morning sun in his eyes. He joined the pro tour on a shoestring and a prayer, with a set of battered clubs and a couple of shirts, and immediately went about challenging Jack Nicklaus and the Establishment. He was full of audacity and irreverence. He was long on joviality and occasionally short of temper. He won tournaments, entertained orphans and sassed the Masters, in which he refused to compete in the early '70s. Golf, a sport meant to be emotionless, is lucky to have him.
June 14, 1981
The Trevino of the record books was born on June 16, 1968 at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., when he won the U.S. Open, whipping Nicklaus and everybody else by four strokes; the Taco Kid had block-busted golf's staid and WASPy leader board. Since then he has given us most of what we wanted—what a character, we say with delight—while jealously guarding all of himself. There may never have been a major sports figure the public seems to know so well and yet really understands so poorly.
Unlike some stars who rise from nothing and make it big, Trevino hasn't run away from what he was. He never forgets a favor—or a grudge—and eventually the books balance. What keeps Super Mex turning the key in all those motel-room doors week after week is his memory. Trevino never forgets that he is a fatherless Mexican-American with a seventh-grade education who was raised on bare floors with too little food and even less money. He believes that life is just waiting to kick people like him in the teeth.
The Trevino of the television screen is a chirpy, happy-go-lucky Mex, with not much more on his mind than whether the beer is cold. Actually, Trevino is a perspicacious man who can read people the way he can read a green. Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn't like. Well, Trevino never met a man he didn't know.
Outsiders tend to think of him as something of a gambler, too, dating from his hustling days, but that's not true. Trevino never made a bet that he wasn't pretty sure he could win. No gamble there. Even today he plays safe on the course and away from it. He fades his tee shots, and he's always on the high side with people, too, paying his own way, staying close to a small circle of friends. "No one knows me," he once said in a rare moment of candor. "I don't want anybody to know me."
There's one thing you have to understand about Trevino, about how a born scuffler looks at life: A Wall Street broker might consider a pool player, a hustler who lives by his wits, to be a particularly low form of life, but the pool player, the hustler, might just as well see the 9-to-5er as a truly contemptible sort.
That's called "the reverse." Trevino, who as a kid never ate lunch on a country club veranda or even had a summer vacation, knows what the reverse is like. You take someone's prejudice and you turn it against them. You take their criticism and laugh back. You make lemonade out of lemons. In fact, if you knew what to look for, you could've seen the way Trevino reverses things when he was playing in a pro-am at the Bel-Air Country Club earlier this year.
Bel-Air is a moneyed community in Los Angeles. It wouldn't be far wrong to state that every Bel-Air home has a Mexican gardener. The Bel-Air Country Club grounds crew is predominantly Mexican; its members stood attentively as Trevino marched down the fairways. The Chicanos laughed when he pointed at a nearby estate, whose property value was estimated to be $12½ million, and said derisively, "I wouldn't pay that much for United Airlines."
In the group with Trevino was a woman club member who had volunteered to keep score. Midway through the round, when Trevino paused to rake a sand trap, the woman said to him, "Oh, do you do windows, too?" It was an innocuous remark, meant only as banter, but Trevino seized on it and replied, "A woman in Dallas saw me washing windows at my house last week, and she stopped her car and yelled, 'How much do you charge?' I said, 'Lady, the woman in this house lets me sleep with her.' " The gallery laughed, but the woman scorekeeper looked like she wanted the earth to swallow her up. That's the reverse.
When he was young Trevino learned the con man's creed: Give people what they expect and want, and they'll believe it and leave you alone. When he first played in a tournament, he'd never seen a gallery or a country club blazer, and he didn't know which was the salad fork. He started telling jokes, and people laughed, and since then, whenever he has been confronted with a potentially unsettling situation—meeting the Lord Mayor of London, for instance, or playing off for the 1971 U.S. Open title at Merion with Jack Nicklaus—Trevino has fallen back on the device of breaking everybody up. He looked at the mayor's chestful of medals and told him, "Man, I saw Sammy Davis a few weeks ago and thought he was wearing a crazy set of beads. You got the craziest I've seen." He threw a rubber snake at Nicklaus on the first tee and then went out and beat him by three strokes. It's his way of getting by.
Make a person laugh, Trevino knows, and you touch him in a special way, play on his prejudices, perhaps. With laughter you can do a lot: make friends or a point or hide a hurt. Hey, people are laughing to death on the street corners of Harlem. The "truly needy" think everything is funny. "There are no rich Mexicans," Trevino says with a cackle. "They get some money, they call themselves Spanish." It all goes down so easy. Mexicans are carefree, right? Nothing bothers them. Not even lightning. They keep on laughing, amigo. And so you laugh with Trevino, but by doing so you run the risk of forever misjudging him. "I got women to see and crops to harvest," he shouts as he pushes through the gallery. Say, Lee, did you hear the one about the Mexican jumping bean? Says Joey Salinas, Trevino's road manager, "When we leave Dallas, we start laughing as soon as we get on the plane and we don't stop till the trip is over. I lose five pounds each trip, just laughing."
The laughter is still out there every day, but other things from Trevino's past have changed. Dallas is a bustling metropolis filled with deal-makers. Progress has gulped down all the reminders of his beginnings: the four-room shack by the cemetery where he grew up with his grandfather, who was a gravedigger; the Glen Lakes course where he caddied and first encountered people who looked down their noses at him; and Hardy's, the driving range and pitch 'n' putt course operated by a crusty, spare fellow named Hardy Greenwood—they're all gone, become shopping centers, apartment houses, whatever. Trevino occasionally drives past the spot where his grandfather's shack used to be. A half-million-dollar house, owned by a woman who heads a large cosmetics company, stands there now. That house, in a way, symbolizes the alterations in Trevino's life.
Trevino learned his lessons in the streets, but his kids are in private schools and he reads The Wall Street Journal. His wife, Claudia, a 17-year-old theater ticket taker when he met her, oversees the remodeling of a house the Trevinos recently purchased. It will be finished next fall. The house sits on 3½ acres, and Trevino intends to install a putting green. He has always wanted to have one. He was 15 years old before he ever played an 18-hole round of golf, and he never owned a new golf ball until he went into the Marines at 17. Now he'll have his own putting green.
The house Trevino is redoing in Dallas represents his second try at living in that city. He was born there, grew up wise and scrambling there and as a young man worked at Hardy's hustling bets. Soon he had plucked all the pigeons clean. At which point he came up with his most famous gimmick: He took a Dr Pepper bottle, wrapped tape around the bottle's neck so it wouldn't slip, and played golf with it, hitting the ball with a baseball swing and putting croquet fashion. What made it work was that he now appeared to be the underdog. The pigeons expected to win, even gave him strokes. Trevino learned how insidious pressure can be, how being the favorite can affect a man. In three years, he never lost a bet playing with the bottle.
Trevino's reputation got around. By 1965 Martin Lettunich, an El Paso cotton farmer, had heard about him and thought enough of him to transplant him to West Texas to play some high-stakes golf. Trevino, 25 then, arrived in a 1958 Oldsmobile pulling a small U-Haul trailer carrying Claudia's and his belongings. He had $50 in his pocket. Don Whittington, and his cousin, Jesse Whittenton, gave Trevino a job at the Horizon Hills Country Club, a windblown course they operated in the wasteland outside of El Paso. And who should turn up there one fine day but Ray Floyd, then as now one of the top players on the tour.
"Where are we?" asked Floyd, getting out of his car and yawning. Trevino politely asked him if he wanted his clubs taken to the pro shop. At the time, Trevino was a jack-of-all-trades. He shined shoes, tended bar, picked up driving-range balls. His pay was $30 a week, but Lettunich took care of him when they made a big score, even though Trevino refused Lettunich's suggestion that he act as if he didn't understand English.
"Who'm I going to play?" asked Floyd. "Me," replied Trevino.
"You!" said Floyd with a snort, looking at the chubby Mexican with the big grin on his face. "You mean they bet on you?"
One of the gamblers asked Floyd if he wanted to go out and take a look at the course. "No need for that," he replied, "let's play cards until we're ready to tee off."
The first day Floyd shot 66; Trevino had 65. The next day Floyd shot 66; Trevino had 64. The following day Floyd eagled the last hole to beat Trevino by one stroke. "I sent him home C.O.D.," recalls Trevino. "Don't ever play a good player on his home course."
Today, even when he's just having fun, Trevino wants the percentages on his side. Last year in London, he was at dinner in a restaurant when he noticed a dart board. He challenged the best man in the house, and someone was nominated. Trevino knew that the English normally throw darts from about eight feet. He made the man move back a couple of feet. "He couldn't even hit the target," Trevino says with a chuckle. Of course, his opponent had no idea that when Trevino wasn't hitting golf balls back at Hardy's, he would throw darts at a target hung on the back of a door. From about 10 feet.
Trevino didn't get his PGA card until 1967. He had wanted to apply in Dallas but nobody there seemed ready to endorse his application. Finally Bill Eschenbrenner, the pro at the El Paso Country Club, went to bat for him.
Eschenbrenner has Trevino's application framed and hanging on a wall in his pro shop. "Back then he was a pretty tough character, and people were afraid of him," Eschenbrenner says. "But I knew him. He told me that he would be loyal to the PGA, and down the line he has proven that. 'If you need me, I'll be there tomorrow,' he says. Eve never known a guy who got so great who changed so little. Lee's exactly the same person he was back in 1965. A friend is a friend with him." Trevino has proved his loyalty by regularly showing up for small events around El Paso, even after he didn't live there anymore.
Just before Trevino left to join the circuit full time, Joey Salinas, a friend from Dallas who much later on would become his road manager; Joey's brothers, Arnold and Albert; and Angie, the boys' mother, gave a dinner for Trevino. Angie stood and proposed a toast: "To the next great golfer in the world." Everybody laughed. It sounded so preposterous. Even Trevino chuckled. He admits now, "I never dreamed I could play with those guys on tour. The longer I played, the easier it got. But I never dreamed I was going to be as good as I turned out to be."
In the beginning, because of his public-parks heritage, Trevino couldn't deal with deep rough or bunkers. He had no experience with those obstacles, but he performed well enough during the last half of 1967 to be named Rookie of the Year.
It happened that at about the same time Bucky Woy, a former deputy sheriff and golf pro from Akron, Ohio, was also trying to get into pro golf, but as an agent rather than a player. Woy dogged Trevino, badgering him to sign up for more than a year when no one knew Trevino's name.
In those days a lot of experts considered Trevino a leader-board aberration—he hit the ball low, with a funny, flat swing, and he seemed to be a jabbering nervous wreck on the course. Coming into the 1968 U.S. Open, he'd already blown chances to win the Masters, shooting a final round of 80, as well as tournaments in Atlanta and Houston, where he committed the embarrassing gaffe of shanking on the last hole. But Woy, a bit of a scuffler himself, recognized something special in Trevino: He was impervious to adversity because he was like a weed that had pushed itself up through the concrete. It was tough to get at his roots.
And so the legend was born at Oak Hill. Walking down one of the final fairways on Sunday, leading now by four strokes, Trevino reached out impulsively and slapped the back of Joe Dey Jr., the executive director of the USGA who was accompanying Trevino and Bert Yancey. Dey is the most courteous and understanding of men, but he's not the sort one ordinarily slaps on the back. "I'm just trying to build up as big a lead as I can, so I won't choke," Trevino yammered at him. Everybody thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. It was the reverse.
With the perspiring Woy standing at public telephone booths on the course, calling equipment manufacturers and announcing prematurely that he was representing Trevino, Trevino was becoming the first player in Open history to shoot four straight rounds in the 60s.
Woy finally signed Trevino, but he needed one last bit of resourcefulness. He canceled Trevino's airplane reservation to the next tournament and rebooked him on a later flight so he and Trevino could talk business. Then he confessed his brazen move to Trevino, who laughed and at breakfast on Tuesday signed the contract Woy had drawn up on a restaurant place mat. Why not? Trevino now was a shareholder in life, with money in his pocket—and a title. He was on his way.
Golf had never seen anything like him. But Trevino realized then, as he does now, that he was in the country club on a pass. Starting out, he ran into a lot of wrinkled noses from the high and haughty. People sniffed at the tattooed Mexican-American. You have to remember the times. The late '60s. Why, people were showing up in the clubhouse dining room without ties.
There's no sport so bound up in tradition, so concerned with the appearance of gentility, as golf. And here was this loudmouth swaggering around, tweaking noses, beating Nicklaus, boycotting the Masters because the tournament was and is quintessentially Establishment, and laughing all the time. Sure the fans loved it—"Go get 'em, Lee!"—but they were just visitors, too. The rest of the year they stood outside the country club gates like everyone else.
Thus Trevino found, and finds, himself caught between golf, which he loves, and the country clubs, which he despises. One doesn't exist without the other, and so on the course everything is funny, but afterward—adios. He almost never goes into the clubhouse to have a drink, and only rarely does he set foot in the locker room. He changes shoes in the car, and reporters can catch him only after a good round when he's brought into the interview room. Last year at the U.S. Open, an unsuspecting journalist approached Trevino, explaining that she wanted to do a piece on his home. "Nobody writes anything about my home," Trevino snapped, turning away. "My home is private."
"Lee doesn't like anything that's Establishment," says Woy, who stopped being Trevino's manager in 1970. "His biggest weakness, and the reason he has never won the Masters even after he began competing in the tournament again, is that he hates rejection. At Augusta he gets upset when he drives through the gates and he sees those hallowed pillars. He came from the other side of the tracks, and anytime he sees anybody who's polished or sophisticated, he tries to avoid him. He's a very private person, introverted and extroverted at the same time. He's not going to let anybody get inside of him. There's a veil around him. It's that simple."
During tournaments, Trevino is a virtual recluse. He rarely leaves his motel room except to go to the course. He orders from room service or dines on Kentucky Fried Chicken supplied by the Salinases. He calls home every day. Trevino will putt on the wall-to-wall carpet in his room throughout the evening, one eye on the TV set. And when he gets up in the morning, he'll putt some more. Often he hits practice balls before going to the course—at a local driving range. And in the evenings, if possible, he'll hit some more. The work and practice are no big deal to him. He has always worked hard. As a kid at Hardy's, it was seven days a week, and he and the boss built the entire pitch 'n' putt course themselves. At Horizon Hills, he jogged to work at 6 a.m. Besides, he doesn't think of golf as work. When Trevino goes on vacation, he plays golf. "I come from a long line of striped range balls," he says.
Trevino began calling room service in the early '70s, when he got tired and a little bit frightened of the fans who would stand respectfully when Nicklaus walked by, but who would then engulf Trevino, pounding his back, pulling at his shirt, ruffling his hair. "If they gouge my eyes out, I'll play with a Seeing Eye dog," he once said after being manhandled. He was becoming a hostage to his image, he said, and he resented it.
Another important Trevino attribute is loyalty. If you show him he can trust you, you've got a friend for life. But let him down, quit on him, and it's over. It's no surprise that he has had the same No. 1 wood for almost 20 years, or, conversely, that he has gone through hundreds of turncoat putters, because to a lesser extent he has done the same thing with people. Neal Harvey, a taciturn black man, was his caddie for years, and together they won many of Trevino's titles, Harvey shouldering the bag and absorbing Trevino's nervous chatter. Then, because Harvey's wife wanted him to settle down, he quit the Tour in 1975 and took a job at the Los Angeles International Airport as a skycap.
This year at the L.A. Open, Harvey sought out Trevino. Trevino had heard that Harvey wanted to tote his bag again, but when the former caddie approached as Trevino practice-putted, Trevino hardly glanced up. One of Harvey's friends stood off to the side, beaming, obviously expecting a big show of affection. He knew how close Harvey and Trevino had been. The bystander didn't understand that Trevino doesn't believe in prodigal sons, and as Trevino's coolness became apparent, as Trevino spoke in only perfunctory tones and clipped sentences, the smile drained from the bystander's face. He realized that Harvey was back outside the gallery ropes with everybody else.
Trevino's self-imposed isolation is all-encompassing. For instance, he has a genuine fondness and admiration for Nicklaus, and when Nicklaus broke out of a long slump in the U.S. Open last June, Trevino really meant it when he yelped. "Let him go! Let the big dog eat!" Years ago it was Nicklaus who tried to assuage Trevino's self-doubt with the counsel: "You don't know how good you are." And when Trevino boycotted the Masters, only Nicklaus could persuade him to play again at Augusta. And yet, Nicklaus admits he doesn't know Trevino. "We were all in the same hotel at the British Open last year, and nobody ever saw him," Nicklaus says. "It's like you wind him up and when he hits the course his mouth starts going. Until he goes back to his room. Then he stops completely." Years ago on a transatlantic flight, Trevino was aghast to discover that he and Woy were on the same plane as Nicklaus and Billy Casper. As soon as they were airborne, Trevino left the first-class section and talked to the coach passengers for most of the seven-hour flight. He was playing safe.
Here is the reverse again, the ultimate reverse: Trevino makes his very good living at golf, the game of the Establishment, but he always plays on his terms. When people call out to him in Spanish from the gallery, Super Mex usually answers them in English. He sets the rules, and when it's over, he's gone. In effect, he carries his own personal country club in his retinue: the Salinas brothers, Cesar Sanudo, another tournament player, and a few others. They're laughing, but only they really understand the punch line. Podnah, they've been there.
Because he's the Merry Mex, not many people were concerned when they read in June of 1975 that Trevino had been struck by lightning at the Western Open near Chicago. The wire service story gave no indication of how serious the incident had been. In fact, Trevino almost died. Maybe he would have if he hadn't been so stubborn.
The lightning struck a nearby lake, traveled through the ground to where Trevino was sitting, leaning against his golf bag. The lightning traveled up the metal shafts and pierced Trevino's left side.
"The pain in my left arm and shoulder was killing me but I kept fighting it," he recalls. "I knew I had to hang in there." In the hospital, doctors found small spidery marks on his left shoulder, the bolt's exit wounds. They said they normally saw such marks in the morgue. That night, though he had been given two sleeping pills, Trevino lay awake and watched a wall clock. "Each second meant I'd lived a little longer," he says. "I loved every minute of it."
Trevino was back on tour within a month, but there was a lingering aftereffect: a bad back. He has a theory that the electricity dried out the lubrication surrounding his disks. Whatever, 17 months later, in November of 1976, he was being wheeled into the operating room in a Houston hospital to have a herniated disk fixed. He looked up at the surgeon. Dr. Antonio Moure, and quipped, "Doc, your reputation is on the line. Blow this one and you can use those scalpels to eat your dinner."
As part of his rehabilitation, Trevino jogged and every morning stretched his back by hanging from a bar he could put up in any doorway. It was two years before the pain subsided. "I knew I'd come back," he says now. "There never was a doubt in my mind."
Out on the Tour, the first few months of 1977 were terrible for Trevino, and the year as a whole was his worst—just $85,108 in earnings—since his rookie season of 1967. But he'd been loyal to golf, and he knew the game would be loyal to him. He was sure he'd come back from the operation. But then, a year later, his finances were askew, as if they, too, had been struck by lightning.
In late 1977 Trevino learned that he was cash poor. The small fortune he had amassed in 11 years on the Tour was enmeshed in a development called the Santa Teresa Country Club in New Mexico, not far from El Paso. The government had filed an $82,000 tax lien against him and suddenly Trevino learned that there was no ready money to pay it off. He said, "I'm in debt very heavily and I shouldn't be. It's just a problem between Donnie and Jesse and me." Trevino plus Don Whittington and Jesse Whittenton, the cousins who had given him a job when he arrived in El Paso and backed him when he started on the Tour, were equal partners in the venture. Whittington and his cousin ran Lee Trevino Enterprises, which handled Trevino's income from endorsements, exhibitions and tournaments.
Trevino figures he lost $1½ million. To be almost 40 and still running in place on the financial treadmill would be bad enough for most people, but for Trevino there was an extra agony: By his own determination, Don and Jesse could no longer be part of his life. Mike Bartlett, then a magazine journalist, interviewed Trevino at the time. "It was like the pain of the money wasn't even close to the hurt he felt over losing two friends," Bartlett says. Trevino has never publicly blamed anybody for what happened. But since that day when he called in the moving vans and returned to Dallas, the split with his former business partners has been final. Now he relies on the Salinases to handle his affairs. And Claudia keeps an eye on things.
"No one should say that Lee was ripped off or that someone stole the money, because that's not how it was," a friend of Trevino's says. "If anything, the deal in El Paso just got bigger than they could handle. Actually, it was what Lee wanted all of his life. His house overlooked the golf course. Everything looked great. Then all of a sudden one day there wasn't any money. Lee had to liquidate his assets. He sold the clubhouse and the golf course. He sold his apartments. He ended up with a piece of land and what cash he had, and that was that. He left for Dallas."
Eschenbrenner, the El Paso Country Club pro who helped Trevino get his PGA card, calls it a tribute to Trevino's resolve and fortitude that in the last three seasons he has won more than $850,000 and, more important, ensured his stature as an endorser of products and a player who commands a $20,000 fee for an exhibition. "You ought to try putting those three-footers when all of a sudden you don't have anything again," Eschenbrenner says. "Lee proved how great he is by coming back from that, because his nerves had to be shot by then."
Shot nerves or not, Trevino, 40 and with a dusting of gray in his hair, went out last year and had a tremendous season. He won three tournaments and $385,814. For the fifth time he won the Vardon Trophy, the award given for the fewest strokes per round; his average of 69.73 was the best on the circuit in 30 years. Trevino didn't miss a cut in 21 tournaments, he finished in the top five 11 times, and he was second to Tom Watson in the British Open.
He claims to be shaky on the greens now, though he ranked a very respectable 21st as a putter among the touring pros last year. Off the tee and on the fairway, he's striking the ball wonderfully and is still improving. Ben Hogan once said that Trevino manipulated the club better than anyone, and there's no one more adept at inventing trouble shots. It's all there in his hands, which are programmed like a computer. "If a guy walked around with me and said, 'I want you to cut a seven-iron in there,' I could do it," says Trevino. "If he said, 'Hook a five-iron in there,' I could do that. I'd love a guy beside me calling the shots. The whole thing is: It's a damn challenge."
On the course, Trevino naturally makes a joke about it. After splitting the fairway with a drive, he'll yell, "Same ol' thing. It's hell to wake up every morning and know you're going to hit that driver like that. The most dangerous thing I do is drive to the bank. I've got a bad swing, a bad stance and a bad grip, but my banker loves me. I'm the best furniture maker in the world. No one hits the wood clubs better than I do."
No one taught him the way to do any of this. He figured it out himself—how to get rid of the hook, how to punch those iron shots that make the ball act as if it had spikes on it. Some of it comes from the days at Hardy's, when he would hit 500 balls a day, minimum. Every day.
"Money doesn't mean a lot to me," says Trevino. "I make a lot of it, but I leave it up to the Salinas brothers and my wife. I don't have to worry about it: Am I losing $10,000 here, making $40,000 there? I've told them, 'I'm going to make you some money. I know I can do that. Now it's up to you to invest it wisely so when I retire in 1985, I hope I'll be set.' If not, I'll pick up golf balls somewhere."
Over the years Trevino has been a soft touch. He gives a lot of money to charities and buys ice cream and soft drinks for orphans. He once walked into a barbershop, saw a child crying and rushed out to buy a toy as a pacifier. He remembers what it was like to be a kid who did without. After making it big, he never changed. He took his old buddy, Martin Lettunich, the El Paso cotton farmer, to play in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. Monte Strange, a Horizon Hills handyman with a crippled arm, became Trevino's valet on the Tour. And each year Trevino plays in the Hawaiian Open as a tribute to Ted Makalena, a pro from the islands who died from a swimming accident. Makalena was Trevino's friend; they roomed together for a while on the Tour. When Trevino heard of Makalena's death, he turned to a friend and said, "I'm going to win the Hawaiian Open and donate the purse to Ted's kids." And he won and gave $10,000 to the Makalena family.
"Every year Lee takes me to the Tournament of Champions near San Diego," says Eschenbrenner. "One night we returned to Lee's room and out of nowhere, he said, 'C'mon, we're going into town.' He had heard that some wounded soldiers were being entertained at a local service hall and he wanted to visit them. He spent the whole evening talking to those guys. They loved it. That's the kind of guy Lee Trevino is."
Upon the completion of his first full season on the circuit, Trevino calculated he had earned $500 an hour on the golf course. Wonderment engulfed him. It was hilarious. Imagine being a barefoot Mexican-American a short time before and now earning that kind of money—at golf, no less, the sport where someone always has to sign your application. Podnah, that's the punch line.