Lee Trevino: Super Mex

Six-time Major champion Lee Trevino was renowned for his competitive determination, positivity, humour and incredible natural golfing ability.

Lee Trevino
Lee Trevino after winning the 1971 Open at Royal Birkdale
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lee Trevino is famous for his gritty determination and positive approach to golf. Both these qualities were a product of his tough upbringing. Trevino never knew his dad and was raised by his mother and grandfather in Texas. By the age of five Lee was working the cotton fields to supplement the meagre family income. He developed a love for golf from an early age but financial pressures meant he had to look for work so, at the age of 17 Trevino joined the Marines.

Towards the end of his four-year tour of duty he spent a good deal of time playing golf with the Officers and, following his discharge, took a professional’s job in El Paso, Texas. There he honed his, self-taught, swashbuckling technique and formidable gamesmanship by gambling in head-to-head matches - he’d often wager more than he could afford to lose. When asked by an interviewer during the 1972 Open about the pressure he was facing Trevino replied, “Try playing a hustler for $50 when you’ve only got $10 in your pocket. That’s pressure.”

Trevino emerged on the professional scene when he finished tied fifth at the 1967 US Open. The following year he won the event– the first of his 29 PGA Tour victories. The glory years for “Super Mex” came in the early 70’s. He won the US Open of 1971 and The Open Championship the same year at Royal Birkdale. In 1972 he travelled to Muirfield to try and defend his title. Aided by a chip-in at the 71st hole, he did just that. He also won the USPGA Championships of 1974 and 1984.

Perfecting the fade

Lee Trevino at Muirfield 1972

Lee Trevino at Muirfield 1972

Having watched Ben Hogan hitting balls on the practice ground at Shady Oaks in Fort Worth, Trevino decided to perfect the fade. He did so with great success, despite his strong grip. He became an extremely accurate player, renowned for firing at the pins. He was also blessed with a sublime touch around the greens.

Lee Trevino in 1970

Lee Trevino in 1970

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Trevino. In the Western Open of 1975 he was almost killed when he was struck by lightning. Typically, he had some sage advice for that eventuality. “If you’re caught in a storm and are afraid of lighting, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

Trevino was always popular with the fans. He laughed and joked with the galleries and played each game with a smile. He loved to win but, when the chips were down, put on a brave face, cracked jokes with playing partners and spectators and generally lightened the mood. Some of today’s ultra-serious, po-faced professionals could learn a great deal from the gallant good-humour displayed by Super Mex.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?