This 1978 CNN Sports video interview of legendary PGA golfer “Super Mex” Lee Trevino transpires after Trevino was disqualified from the 1978 PGA Championship tournament for an improper score recorded on his score card….and since Super Mex was one of Bone Daddy’s all time favorite golfers…I thought I’d dedicate this piece to the “The Merry Mex”.
Lee Buck Trevino is a retired American professional golfer regarded as one of the greatest players in professional golf history….and the greatest Hispanic golfer of all time….who was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1981….asTrevino won six major championships and 29 PGA Tour events over the course of his career. He is one of only four players to twice win the U.S. Open, The Open Championship (British Open) and the PGA Championship….as the only major that eluded him was the Masters Tournament.
He is an icon for Mexican Americans, and is often referred to as “The Merry Mex” and “Supermex,” both affectionate nicknames given to him by other golfers. Trevino was introduced to golf when his uncle gave him a few golf balls and an old golf club….after which he spent his free time sneaking into nearby country clubs to practice….and began as a caddie at the Dallas Athletic Club near his home. He soon began caddying full-time….when he had to leave school at 14 to go to work….as he earned $30 a week as a caddie and shoe shiner….but this allowed him to be able to practice golf….since the caddies had three short holes behind their shack. After work, he would hit at least 300 balls….with many of these practice shots being struck from bare ground with very little grass (known locally as ‘Texas hardpan’), often in very windy conditions. It is this that is widely believed to be the reason Trevino developed his extremely unique…as many would say unorthodox and compact swing method….which, of course, he went on to develop and groove with tremendous effect. A very pronounced controlled ‘fade’ was undoubtedly his signature shot….although he had many other shot-types in his “quiver of arrows”…. and he is, still to this day, remembered as one of the very finest shot-makers of all time.
When he turned 17 in December 1956, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps….while serving four years as a machine gunner…who was discharged in December 1960 as a corporal with the 3rd Marine Division. Part of his time was spent playing golf with Marine Corps officers….and he played successfully in Armed Forces golf events in Asia….where one rival was Orville Moody….who would follow Trevino to the PGA Tour in the late 1960’s.
After his discharge, Trevino became a club professional back in El Paso, TX….and made extra money by gambling for stakes in head-to-head matches….as the truth be known….Super Mex probably made nearly as much money hustling “high-stakes matches” cumulative over his career as he did on the PGA tour….which was quite a bit. He qualified for the U.S. Open in 1966, made the cut, and tied for 54th, earning $600. He qualified again in 1967 and shot 283 (+3), eight shots behind champion Jack Nicklaus, and only four behind runner-up Arnold Palmer….as Trevino earned $6,000 for finishing fifth….which earned him Tour privileges for the rest of the 1967 season…in which he won $26,472 as a rookie….45th on the PGA Tour money list….and was named Rookie of the Year by Golf Digest. The fifth-place finish at the U.S. Open also earned him an exemption into the following year’s event.
In 1968, his second year on the circuit, Trevino won the U.S. Open at Oak Hill Country Club, in Rochester, New York, four strokes ahead of runner-up Nicklaus, the defending champion. During his career, Trevino won 29 times on the PGA Tour, including six majors. He was at his best in the early 1970’s, when he was Jack Nicklaus’s chief rival. He won the money list title in 1970, and had six wins in 1971 and four wins in 1972. Trevino had a remarkable spell during a span of 20 days in the summer of 1971….when he defeated Nicklaus in an 18-hole playoff to win the 1971 U.S. Open….then just 2 weeks later, he won the Canadian Open (the first of three)….and the following week won The Open Championship (British Open)….becoming the first player to win those three titles in the same year. Trevino was awarded the Hickok Belt as the top professional athlete of 1971. He also won Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” and was named ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.
In 1972 at Muirfield in Scotland….Trevino became the first player to successfully defend The Open Championship since Arnold Palmer in 1962….in which he holed out four times from off the greens during the tournament…..and after holing his chip shot on the 17th in the final round, Trevino said: “I’m the greatest chipper in the world.”
In the PGA Championship in 1974, Trevino won the fifth of his six major championships. He won the title by a stroke, again over Nicklaus, the fourth and final time he was a runner-up in a major to Trevino. At the Western Open near Chicago in 1975, Trevino was struck by lightning….and suffered injuries to his spine. He underwent surgery to remove a damaged spinal disk, but back problems continued to hamper his play. Nevertheless, he was ranked second in McCormack’s World Golf Rankings in 1980 behind Tom Watson. Trevino had 3 PGA Tour wins in 1980 and finished runner-up to Tom Watson in the 1980 Open Championship. At the age of 44, Trevino won his sixth and final major at the PGA Championship in 1984….with a 15-under-par score of 273….and becoming the first player to shoot all four rounds under 70 in the PGA Championship. He was the runner-up the following year in 1985, attempting to become the first repeat champion since Denny Shute in 1937.
In the early 1980s, Trevino was second on the PGA Tour’s career money list….behind only Nicklaus. From 1968 to 1981 inclusive, Trevino won at least one PGA Tour event a year, a streak of 14 seasons. He also won more than 20 international and unofficial professional tournaments.
He was one of the charismatic stars who was instrumental in making the Senior PGA Tour (now the PGA Tour Champions) an early success. He claimed 29 senior wins, including four senior majors. He topped the seniors’ money list in 1990 and 1992.
Simply put, “Super Mex” Lee Trevino is a golfing legend….who is still today considered one of the icons of the sport….and we at ImaSportsphile treasure this “nugget of gold” in our treasure chest of vintage golf videos.