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My Shot: Lee Trevino

On ghosts, drooling, bulldozers—and how to win a fistfight

By Guy Yocom Photos by Darren Carroll
July 01, 2013

People tell me I look healthy for being 62. I don't let it go to my head. I've been to too many wakes where people look in the casket and say, "Don't he look great?"

Only bad golfers are lucky. They're the ones bouncing balls off trees, curbs, turtles and cars. Good golfers have bad luck. When you hit the ball straight, a funny bounce is bound to be unlucky.

I keep lot of my opinions to myself. My grandfather, who was a gravedigger, told me one day, "Son, the next time you go by the cemetery, remember that a third of the people are in there because they got into other people's business."

I believe in reincarnation. In my last life I was a peasant. Next time around, I'd like to be an eagle. Who hasn't dreamed they could fly? They're a protected species, too.

Green synthetic practice mats are the worst thing for your golf game that I know of. You can hit six inches behind the ball and not even know it, because the ball still gets airborne. Practice nets are awful, too. Swing a weighted club instead.

People ask me who's better, Tiger or Jack. It's close, but if they played one 18-hole round, both men in their primes, I'd have to take Jack. He was longer than Tiger, a better putter, and he'd game-plan Tiger to death. Nicklaus at his best always found a way to win.

The first sign a guy is choking is when he looks up too early on a putt. He'll decelerate and miss to the right. When your opponent does that, you've got him.

Don't ask me to shake your hand when I'm in a restaurant having dinner. No offense, but I don't know where your hand has been.

'I have one superstition: I won't use a yellow tee. Yellow is the color of cowardice. I'll hit a 3-wood off the deck first.'

If your concentration is getting bad, take up bass fishing. It will really improve your ability to focus. If you aren't ready when that fish hits, you can't set the hook.

Show me a golfer who doesn't have a mean streak, and I'll show you a weak competitor.

To be the best at anything, you have to be a little selfish. Selfishness is the reason I didn't know my first four children. I could have been a better dad, but I would have been an average golfer.

If I'd never discovered golf, I wouldn't have minded being a bulldozer driver. I like feeling that power under me. A good 'dozer man can move dirt the way a sculptor shapes clay. Nobody saves the golf course builder more money.

I just got 28 teeth crowned. I had the dentist grind them all down in one 9 ½-hour appointment. When he put the crowns on, I did it without Novocain. I have a high pain threshold.

Golf-wise, I did it all by myself. I'm not indebted to anybody for the game I've got. That's my single biggest source of satisfaction.

I went flat broke in 1977. It didn't bother me a bit. If you've been poor once, being poor again is no big thing. You just look at it as a challenge.

If you think a guy is trying to hustle you, just make two bets. One match, one medal. It's real hard to lose both.

One day in 1984 my wife, Claudia, told me, "The government gets a third and we can spend a third, but we need to save a third." That's the smartest advice anyone ever gave me. We're rich now.

You can't go through life not trusting anyone. Sooner or later you have to put your faith in someone. And no matter how well you judge character, it takes luck to choose the right person.

No one has explained to my satisfaction why a one-way airline ticket can cost more than one going round trip.

I've been hit by lightning, had back operations, torn ligaments in my thumb and a million other things. But I'm still playing, because I have the best physical therapist in the world. She's 60 years old, is about 6-foot-5 and just beats the hell out of me. Her thumbs are like hammers. Every week for two hours, $200 a session. Longevity comes with a price.

Chuck Rubin signed on as my agent in 1989. He said, "I'll only do it if you have me audited once a year, because I don't want any question in your mind about where your money is." Sweetest words I ever heard.

Unless you're a pastor, priest, minister or rabbi, you have no business pushing your religion on somebody else.

If you ever get in a fistfight and you're bigger than the other guy, stay in close and try to get him on the ground. If you're smaller, stay away. Regardless of your size, think twice before throwing the first punch, because you're making a big commitment.

Speaking of fistfights, the last one I had was in 1978 with the mayor of El Paso. We had bet $200 on who had won the last El Paso Open, held in 1959. He guessed it was one of the Hebert brothers, but I knew it was Marty Furgol. When I came to collect, there was a TV crew waiting, and here came the mayor with a huge bag full of pennies, $100 worth. He poured the bag of pennies over my head, which I didn't think was one bit funny. I warned him not to pour the other bag over my head, but he just laughed and started to pour anyway. So I cold-cocked him. When they showed me punching out the mayor on TV, I got a lot of phone calls, all of them congratulating me. People didn't like that mayor.

Tom Jones is the best damned stage performer of all time. I only wish he would have sung more ballads.

I don't mind signing autographs. But I won't sign skin, gum wrappers, towels or napkins.

I claimed to have quit smoking many years ago, when in fact I'd still sneak one now and again. Then, in 1995, my daughter Olivia, who was 6 at the time, caught me lighting up. "Why are you smoking, Daddy? That's bad for you." I thought she was gonna cry. That was my last smoke. Some people use the patch; I used my own guilt.


There are people who think Bill Murray is hilarious. Frankly, I don't get it. His movies are OK, but as a comedian, give me Alan King any day.

I think they should change the rules so you can lift, clean and place your ball, but only in your own fairway. Who hasn't found their ball in a divot in the middle of a fairway and thought the same thing?

I can look a guy in the eye and tell how tough he is, whether he's a fighter or not. You know who's a fighter? Our president, George Bush. He is one tough cookie who will lock horns with you in a second. He likes a good fight, and right now I'm glad he's in charge.

My advice to architects: Before you build a course with deep bunkers, railroad ties, forced carries and water everywhere, just remember that no Donald Ross course has ever gone Chapter 11.

Unless you're in prison, you have to agree that life in America is better than it's ever been.

If I were a judge, I'd send every gang member into the Marine Corps for two years. I guarantee most of them will come out ready to contribute to society.

I can't work a computer. I'm afraid I'd like it too much. My day is crammed full as it is.

Sure, I believe in ghosts. I know there are ghosts at St. Andrews. When you walk across the Swilcan Bridge you can almost see them, they're so close. The Morrises, the Auchterlonies, I'm certain they're all flying around out there.

Practicing all the time helps my confidence more than it does my swing. Knowing you've paid a price gives you a big advantage.

It's hard for me to visit sick kids in hospitals. I don't do it anymore, because it tears me up too much. But I do other things. After I made a hole-in-one worth $1 million last year, I gave $500,000 of it to St. Jude Children's Hospital.

I've met a lot of celebrities, but I've never been so awed by another person that I couldn't be myself. That would change if I got to meet the Pope.

I have a confession to make. In 1984 I was using one of the those early metal drivers I'm pretty sure was nonconforming. Other guys used them, but the drivers didn't work for them, because they kept caving in the faces. Not me. I didn't hit the ball hard enough to hurt the clubface. And I did get a little extra distance with it.

It's no secret I can be very snappish with people. I always end up regretting it. Last year in Utah, a little boy asked me to sign his golf ball and I told him no. I couldn't eat dinner that night and slept for about an hour. The next morning, a security guard helped me find the boy. I gave him a signed ball, a glove and a hat. The kid was ecstatic, his dad thanked me, and as I walked away I swore I'd try to be nicer to people. And I am getting better at it.

I felt a fly land on my chin. When I went to brush it off there was no fly. It was drool. You know you're close to retirement when you can't swallow your own saliva.

Golf programs for inner-city kids don't work. After they bus the kids out of the ghetto and let them hit balls for a few hours, they bus them right back to the ghetto. I've thought about this for 30 years and still don't know the answer. I'm not sure there is one.

If I don't come back as an eagle, I'm coming back as a traffic cop. And I'm giving a ticket to every jackass on a motorcycle who passes cars between lanes.

I know people in Dallas. Trust me, Oswald didn't act alone.