No one who ever had lessons would have a swing like mine. - Lee Trevino (1939 -)
When Lee Trevino stepped up to a golf tee to swing, critics laughed. Some noted that it looked as if he had overbalanced and was trying to use his club to keep from falling. But as unlikely as his swing was, "Supermex" was an even more unlikely golfer. Raised in poverty by his mother and grandfather near Dallas, Texas, Trevino worked on their small fields to earn money from a young age. Although nobody else in his family had shown an interest in golf, it was at this time he first became infatuated with the sport, watching wealthy Texans play at the golf course that ran past his home.
Some sources say that Trevino began caddying at the age of eight, while others place his start in middle school. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade to take a full-time job as a caddy and greens keeper at the Dallas Athletic Club to support his family. He played for bets with his fellow caddies in his free time. This is how he developed his unusual, completely self-taught swing. He describes breaking 70 for the first time at sixteen: "I think I broke 70 at Tennison Park, a municipal course in Dallas. I never played much golf as a kid. I caddied quite a bit but never got serious into golf until about 15 years of age." At seventeen, he left Dallas to serve four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He returned in 1960 to serve for a brief time as a golf instructor under the tutelage of Hardy Greenwood, then began golfing professionally.
There is no such thing as a natural touch. Touch is something you create by hitting millions of golf balls. - Lee Trevino
Lee Trevino's golf career can only be described as amazing. The first few years (1960-66) of it were quiet. He played golf constantly (and, according to some, gambled nearly as constantly), employed by Hardy Greenwood at a golf course outside of Dallas. His first year on the PGA Tour was 1967, when he finished in 45th place. The next year marked his first big wins. In 1968, he placed first in the the U.S. Open Championship and the Hawaiian Open. His spectacular winning streak included such championships as the World Cup of Golf and the Canadian Open. In 1970, one of his most prolific years, Trevino won the Tallahassee Open Invitational, Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, U.S. Open Championship, Canadian Open, British Open Championship, and the Sahara Invitational. In 1981, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Trevino continued to win championships until well into the 1980s, seemingly uninterrupted by the tragedy which struck in 1975. This came in the form of a stroke of lightning that mysteriously hit him during the Western Open. The resulting injuries and operations caused permanent damage to his lower back and forced him to alter his now-beloved style. They forced Trevino to focus more on caution and finesse than the physical power he was famous for. He survived, and continued to win at least one major tournament per year until the early 1980s. But his injury and his age gradually slowed him down to a few years without any major wins. He finally retired from the Pro Tour in 1985 after winning one last PGA Championship in 1984 and before joining the Champions' Tour, he worked briefly as a golf analyst for NBC.
Lee Trevino joined the Senior Tour in the early nineties, where he has celebrated a career marked alternatingly by big wins and tough injuries. In 1990, he was the highest-earning player in all of golf with over $1 million in a single season. He also won the Arnold Palmer award, Player of the Year, and Rookie of the Year awards. However, he has also suffered from ligament damage and back and neck injuries. He continues to play today, and although he had only thirteen tour appearances in 2003, his career continues to boom. He is in 18th place on the Money List of high-earning golfers and lives comfortably in Dallas near where he was born. Notably, in 1996 he had a cameo in Happy Gilmore (alongside other golf stars, and Bob Barker).
I've been hit by lightning and been in the Marine Corps for four years. I've traveled the world and been about everywhere you can imagine. There's not anything I'm scared of except my wife. - Lee Trevino
Golf has long been a sport most often patronized by the wealthy. When Lee Trevino, the Mexican raised in poverty, began to play, he took the golf world by storm because of his race and background as much as his talent. Lee Trevino is jovial, generous, and charitable. He has proven to several generations of aspiring golfers that golf, despite its reputation, need not be inaccessable to them.