Golf needs Another Lee Trevino

By JOSH TOLLE

@joshtolle7

Special to woodypaige.com

The sport of golf has long been viewed as boring, buttoned up, that only privileged people are allowed to play.   Country clubs have specific rules on how one should act and dress in order to play.  It is a game where emotion is rarely shown and having an outgoing personality is frowned upon.  Most golfers follow the traditional rules and do not show their true selves, but the ones that do, have gone on to change the game of golf for the better.

John Daly came onto the scene in 1991, winning the PGA Championship as the ninth alternate in his rookie year on the PGA tour.   This had not been done since Jerry Pate did it in 1976, winning The U.S. Open during his rookie year.    Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and other great players never won a major their first year on tour.   Daly did, and that’s where fans were first introduced to his personality.

With the talent Daly has, it is surprising that he only won two majors in his career.  In 1995, he won The British Open defeating Costantino Rocca in a playoff at St. Andrews.  His most recent win came on the Senior Tour at the Insperity Invitational just over a week ago.

Daly has always stood out on and off the course.  He has had issues that are well known, drinking, gambling, being outspoken, and even a brief suspension from The PGA Tour.   That could be why fans feel they can relate to him.  He has flaws like everyone else in the world.  His outgoing and sometimes brash personality makes people want to sit down and have a beer with him, because they see themselves in Daly.

His go–for–broke style and launching rockets from the tee box helped to attract fans.  Daly wanted to win and he wanted to do it his way.  He has thrown clubs into lakes and once took seven shots to land a ball on a green.  The other six times the golf balls found their way into the water.  This is something that the every day golfers can relate to and made him of the more popular golfers.

Payne Stewart could have been a player that more people would be still talking about if it was not for the tragic place crash that took his life and five others in 1999.   Stewart’s death came just months after winning his third major and second U.S. Open sinking his final putt to defeat Phil Mickelson.  He won 11 tournaments before his death.

His game was very good and he could have gone on to be one of the greats, but what stands out for Stewart is how he dressed like no one on tour and he spoke his mind.  He wore plus-four knickers, a tam-o”-shanter cap, and argyle socks because he wanted to be different and not look like everyone else on the tour.  It worked.  Unfortunately, today no one stands out. Ricky Fowler might be the exception with his bright clothes.

Stewart was intense and wanted to win more than anything.    He respected the men that he golfed with and even would play practical jokes on them.  But what stands out the most is when he conceded a match to Collin Montgomerie who was having a rough go on the final day of the 1999 Ryder Cup.   This was one of the great moments that are still talked about when the Ryder Cup is played.

Stewart did not want to blend in with the crowd and that’s what drew fans and golfers in.

Lee Trevino is another golfer who stood out because of his charm, it also didn’t hurt that he won six majors during his tenure on the PGA tour.   Trevino was able to relate to fans with his jokes and some of his famous quotes.

Trevino once said, “If you are caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron.  Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”

Trevino famously threw a fake snake at Jack Nicklaus during the 1971 U.S. Open right before their 18-hole playoff, which Trevino would go onto win.  Not many players could get away with doing something like that, but Trevino was a jokester who could pull it off.

The most charismatic golfer to ever play the game has to be Arnold Palmer, otherwise known as “The King,” winning seven major championships.  In the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Colorado, Palmer came from a 7-stroke deficit to win the tournament.  He would accumulate 62 PGA Tour victories over his storied career.   That is one of the large reasons he was able to spread the game.

Palmer ushered golf into the television era and all eyes were on the man that would help change the sport.  He brought in people with his openness and ability to relate with golfers, fans, and even presidents.  People gravitated towards him and he welcomed them in.  Golf was not about him, but about the fans that supported him.  He was a mentor and ambassador of the game and had his own fan club, “Arnie’s Army.”

Golf has had some great personalities and the game awaits new players to help elevate the sport.  Daly, Rodriguez, Trevino, and Palmer all had the ability to bring people together to feel that they are no different than these talented golfers.  Right now in golf, no one personality stands out.  It’s really just a carbon copy of the same golfer.  Golf has the talent to become an even more popular sport; it just needs personalities to help reach its potential.

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Josh Tolle grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado after high school he attended Colorado State University where he studied history.  After college he decided to become an actor and lived nearly a decade in Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta before returning back to Colorado.  Since his return he began to follow his first passion sports and has been calling play-by-play for Colorado School of Mines and local high school games on prep spotlight.tv.  Josh hosts his own show every Tuesday from 2-3pm on www.gomilehigh.com called “Off The Glass.”