PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Six-time major champion Lee Trevino, arguably golf’s most engaging personality as a competitor while quietly conducting a tireless philanthropic life, has been named the 2013 recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Trevino, 73, will receive the Association’s highest annual honor in conjunction with the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. The award presentation is Aug. 7, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.
The PGA Distinguished Service Award, inaugurated in 1988, honors outstanding individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf.
“Lee Trevino is the classic rags to riches story in golf. Throughout his life, Lee has never lost sight of his roots and his humble beginnings,” said PGA of America President Ted Bishop. “He was a self-made player who persevered and won championships because he owned his golf swing. He has spent countless hours during his life helping others. In the history of The PGA of America, no one has appreciated or valued membership in our Association more than Lee. He is the quintessential PGA Professional – player, teacher, and humanitarian.
“It is only fitting that we honor Lee Trevino with The PGA's highest award in 2013, a year where major championships will be conducted at Merion, Muirfield, and Oak Hill – venues where he won majors. I can’t wait until August to give Lee this prestigious award.”
Born Lee Buck Trevino in Dallas, Texas, he was raised by his mother and grandfather, a gravedigger. Trevino began picking cotton when he was 5, and advanced to picking up golf balls before he joined the caddie yard. He left school at age 14, helping raise money for his family. Trevino lived near Glen Lakes Country Club in Dallas, across from the seventh hole, in a little house with his grandfather, mother, uncle and two sisters. There was no running water or electricity. Before he would become a major force in golf, Trevino defeated all comers on a par-3 course with a taped-up Dr Pepper bottle, and went on to spend four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Turning professional in 1960, Trevino’s golf talent was spotted by PGA Life Member Bill Eschenbrenner of El Paso, Texas, who was among a group playing Mondays at the former Horizon Hills Country Club. It was there that Trevino stayed in a small motel on the property, worked behind the golf shop counter and managed the practice range.
“When I saw what a great talent he was, I told Lee that I would help him get his PGA card, which was the requirement at that time to play on the Tour,” said Eschenbrenner, the 2005 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, who ultimately signed the documents verifying that Trevino was eligibly employed.
“The PGA meant everything to Lee then, and it does now. Lee has been a giver all his life. He had those who helped him get his start in life, and he has not forgotten that. He gives back in so many ways.”
Joining the PGA Tour at 27, Trevino captured the first of his two U.S. Open Championships in 1968 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., the first of four times when legendary Jack Nicklaus finished second to him in a major. Trevino went on to win 29 times, including six majors – the 1968 and 1971 U.S. Open; the 1974 and ’84 PGA Championship; and the 1971 and ’72 Open Championship. He competed on six U.S. Ryder Cup Teams in three separate decades (1969, ’71, ’73, ’75, ’79, ’81), posting a 17-7-6 record, and went on to serve as U.S. Captain in 1985. He was the 1971 PGA of America Player of the Year and won five Vardon Trophies for season scoring excellence (1970, ’71, ’72,’74, and ’80).
In a remarkable four-week period in 1971, Trevino won in succession – the U.S. Open, Canadian Open and the Open Championship. At the height of his career, he was one of three players struck by lightning on June 27, 1975, at the Western Open. Though it severely hindered his game, he battled back through a series of operations and won 29 more titles on the Champions Tour, a run that included the 1992 and 1994 Senior PGA Championships.
“I can’t tell you how much I have cherished The PGA, and what it meant to have the start I had by having that card in 1967,” said Trevino. “I’m as loyal as any individual to The PGA, an organization whose members are called upon to do everything that you can think of – whether it’s growing the game, building courses, working behind the counter or playing.”
Trevino has maintained a passionate, yet behind-the-scenes philanthropic life, led by his affection for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, sparked through donations from winning three former Danny Thomas Memphis Classic (now St. Jude Classic) titles. On July 30, 2001, Trevino recorded a hole-in-one in the Par-3 Shootout in Gaylord, Mich., and donated $500,000 to the hospital.
He was the 1971 National Christmas Seal Sports Ambassador, a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Sports Committee. He supported the Boy Scouts of America and its Circle 10 initiative in Dallas.
For more than 25 years, Trevino has been virtually on call for countless charities, agreeing to be “auctioned” to a donor, then playing golf with groups throughout the country. Those charities assist underprivileged children, shelters for abused women, and disease prevention and research. Trevino also is an avid supporter of the military, appearing in recruiting announcements for the U.S. Marines, and participating in the Stater Bros. Heroes Challenge in Riverside, Calif., which benefits families of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients.
Lee and Claudia Trevino live in Dallas, Texas. They are parents of a daughter, Olivia, a University of Southern California graduate, who now works at Southern Methodist University, and a son, Daniel, a sophomore at USC. Trevino also has a son, Richard, who is a businessman in Pensacola, Fla.; and daughters Tony, a club manager at Heritage Ranch in Allen, Texas; and Troy Liana, a fitness instructor in McKinney, Texas. Trevino has five grandchildren.
PGA Distinguished Service Award Recipients
1988 Herb Graffis
1989 Bob Hope
1990 No recipient
1991 The Hon. Gerald Ford
1992 Gene Sarazen
1993 Byron Nelson
1994 Arnold Palmer
1995 Patty Berg
1996 Frank Chirkinian
1997 The Hon. George H.W. Bush
1998 Paul Runyan
1999 Bill Dickey
2000 Jack Nicklaus
2001 Mark McCormack
2002 Tim Finchem
2003 Vince Gill
2004 Pete Dye
2005 Wally Uihlein
2006 Fred Ridley
2007 Jack Burke Jr.
2008 Dennis Walters
2009 William Powell
2010 Billy Casper
2011 Larry Nelson
2012 Dave Stockton
2013 Lee Trevino
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