Now in his 80s, Lee Trevino should never have made it to 37. Scott Murray celebrates one of the greatest golfers of all-time.
To have reached your 80s is a fine innings by any metric – and an exceptional one for someone who, at the tender age of 36, was struck by a bolt of the great creator’s finest electric juice. As he hovered a couple of feet off the ground – the lightning having flashed off a lake as he waited for a squall to pass during the 1975 Western Open in Illinois, hitting the bag he was leaning against, then via the steel shafts of his clubs passing up his back and out his left shoulder – Trevino experienced the sense of flying through an ethereal tunnel, faces of friends, foes and lovers looming in and out of view. All fell calm. Silence. At this point in proceedings, it’s probably safe to say that making it to his 37th birthday felt something of a pipe dream.
But mere lightning – a force which raises the temperature of anything in its road by 30,000 degrees centigrade in less than a millisecond – wasn’t powerful enough to put paid to this particular street-fighting tough. The doctors who treated Trevino that night said the sort of scorch marks on his shoulder were usually only recorded in the morgue. Trevino forced himself to stay awake all night, fighting a couple of sleeping pills powerful enough to sedate several wild horses, staring at the clock on the wall. Every ticking second confirmed he was still alive.
With trademark grace and wit, Trevino to this day maintains he “deserved to get hit”, having “set the whole thing up a week before” at the US Open while entertaining the gallery during a thunderstorm interlude. Waving his most recalcitrant club in the air…