Associate writer Barry McDermott's article on Lee Trevino, which begins on page 74 and takes up much of the back nine of this week's issue, is by no means his first on Super Mex. McDermott first came across Trevino while covering the 1967 U.S. Open for Baltimore's The Evening Sun. "People were talking about this driving-range pro from El Paso," McDermott recalls. "Every year there's a guy you never heard of on the leader board and then he falls off. Trevino never did disappear. He's been up there now for 14 years."
Shortly after McDermott came to us in 1971—by way of The Cincinnati Enquirer, which is based just across the Ohio River from his native Covington, Ky.—he was dispatched to Florida to report on a Trevino slump. "In those days I'd follow Lee and just listen because he was so funny," McDermott says. "He'd play with Orville Moody, who would end up like a porcupine, he had so many barbs sticking in him." Trevino needled SI, too, by winning that week's tournament, requiring McDermott to turn his what's-wrong-with-Lee story into a Lee-bounces-back article (SI, March 5, 1973).
"This week's piece also has a sort of reverse twist to it," says McDermott. "Lee does more socializing in four hours on the course than most people do in four months off it, so when he's not playing he wants to relax and keep to himself."
Nevertheless, the story was well suited to McDermott, whose golfing monomania once rivaled Trevino's. McDermott grew up pitching pennies in caddie yards, and won a golf scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where he "made a cameo appearance." At the Enquirer, he would practice, without club, in the wire room; once, as the result of an errant "swing," he left a divot of skin from his hand on the edge of a Western Union machine.
June 14, 1981
Later, McDermott often played in pro-ams, almost outdriving Jack Nicklaus in one Cincinnati charity event. "Bob Hope was razzing me from behind, so I just closed my eyes and accidentally hit the longest drive of my life," says McDermott. "That was the hardest part. The second-hardest was acting like I did it all the time."
Soon after he moved to New York, McDermott, then a two-handicapper, forsook golf for tennis, a game more suited to asphalt, and now packs rackets instead of clubs on the road. He knew golf was out of the question after he played a public course built on a Brooklyn garbage dump. "Instead of washing my balls after a round, I had to detoxify them," he says.
Even a week stalking Trevino at the L.A. Open didn't tempt McDermott to return to the game, but he does seem to have picked up Trevino's way with the good-natured zinger. McDermott's regular tennis partner—and victim—is staff photographer Walter Iooss, who took the picture above and most of those that accompany the Trevino article. Asked about his domination of Iooss on the courts, McDermott observes, "All it proves is that I can beat anyone who was named by a misfiring IBM Selectric typewriter."