Lee Trevino was cranky when he made the turn Sunday in the final round of the PGA Seniors' Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "Who the hell runs this place?" he asked volunteers when he couldn't get his refreshment of choice at the 10th tee. "There are still players out here, you know." Minutes later it was a restless gallery around the 10th green that got on Trevino's nerves. "Come on, guys," he yelled from the fairway, "just settle down." He punctuated his annoyance with a knockdown wedge shot that flew low and checked up right by the hole, as if afraid of another spanking.
Perhaps this season's Senior tour money leader was irritable because the clouds over PGA National Golf Club weren't moving, and it was muggy and his shirt was sticking to his ribs. More likely, he was uptight because third-round leader Raymond Floyd, playing with him in the final group of the day, had just turned in a 33 on the front side, stretching his lead over Trevino to four shots.
Whatever the reason, Trevino's trademark grin and cackling laugh were restored by the time he walked up the 18th fairway two hours later. Thanks to an eye-popping exercise in self-destruction by Floyd on two very difficult par-3s, Trevino wound up winning the tournament by one shot over Jim Colbert and by three shots over Floyd and their other playing partner, Dave Stockton. "I'm as shocked as Ray is," Trevino said as he worked his way through a crowd of well-wishers after finishing the championship with a nine-under-par 279.
Shocked, but not appalled. The 54-year-old Trevino, a gritty competitor since his hardscrabble days as a Texas club pro, has never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth. And it happens that this gift came from Floyd, who for three decades has been paired with Trevino as subjects of one of the best golf anecdotes of all time.
Trevino, as both men tell the tale, was working at El Paso's Horizon Hills Country Club in 1965 when a hotshot Tour player named Raymond Floyd was brought in to duel a local favorite bankrolled by cotton farmers. Floyd drove up in a white Cadillac and was met by a young Mexican who got the pro's clubs out of the trunk, showed him to a locker and even cleaned his shoes. "Who am I playing today?" Floyd asked. "You're talking to him," the young man replied. "Me."
Two days and 53 holes later, Floyd—already down two rounds to the "clubhouse boy"—saved face by eagling the 18th to beat Trevino in their third round by a shot. Floyd left El Paso, saying, "Adios. I've got easier games than this on the Tour."
On Sunday, Floyd was reminded that tournament golf isn't so easy, either. His bogey at 11 and birdies by Trevino at 10 and 13 cut Floyd's margin to one. Then, on the par-3 15th hole, Floyd, a former Masters, PGA and U.S. Open champ, pushed not one, but two shots into the lily pads surrounding the green for a quadruple bogey. After a birdie at 16, Floyd drowned yet another ball at the par-3 17th, and it was adios revisited. "What can you say?" asked the chagrined loser. "I did the damage, he didn't."
Trevino could only shrug at his windfall. "Just means I got to make more room in the trophy case," he said.
The victory, his 20th in four years on the Senior tour, gave him his fourth major Senior championship (two PGAs, one Tradition and a U.S. Open), a check for $115,000 and another needle to use on Floyd the next time they meet.
"Believe me, that's not going to bother Raymond Floyd," said Trevino. "He's solid."
Maybe so. But as Trevino himself proved at the turn, it doesn't take much to make an old pro testy.
The erstwhile Texas club pro won a Senior title when an old friend and foe faltered.