Lee Trevino was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame for his on-course achivements, but he realizes that if not for a few big breaks, he might be attending this year's PGA Merchandise Show in a different capacity.
Speaking on Wednesday as part of the #ThxPGAPro initative, Trevino admitted he owes the PGA of America a huge debt of gratitude for allowing him to pursue a professional golf career.
"The PGA of America has always had a big place right here in my heart for me," Trevino said. "They're the ones who gave me the shot. With the PGA card that I got in 1967, I finished fifth at Baltusrol in the U.S. Open and won it the next year. And at that time, they had a rule that if you won the PGA Championship or U.S. Open before 1970, you got a lifetime exemption. That is a huge, huge deal."
It allowed Trevino to continue playing long enough to win six majors -- including two PGA Championships -- one coming after he was struck by lightning at the Western Open in 1975 and suffered a back injury serious enough to require surgery to remove a disk.
Trevino's dedication to his craft is legendary, but he said that pales in comparison to the sacrifices PGA Professionals make every day.
"Over the years, I've come to realize how hard these people work: lady PGA members, men PGA members or anybody associated with a club," Trevino said. "I always put it this way -- here's a person who works holidays, weekends, puts on tournaments, rules, separates fist fights, they're psychiatrists, they're doctors. They do everything. And they don't have a punch clock. And hopefully the members appreciate that."
Trevino grew up in a house with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity, went to work helping pick cotton when he was 5, worked as a caddy as a teenager and eventually joined the Marines at 17. He won his first tournament in Asia, then returned to El Paso following his discharge from the military.
At that point, he assumed he'd always work at a club, picking the range or working behind the desk. But fate intervened. After qualifying for the 1966 U.S. Open and making the cut, Trevino broke into the spotlight at Baltusrol the following year. And the rest, they say, is history.
His son, Daniel, is pursuing a professional golf career as well. But he recently graduated from Southern Cal, a decision Trevino said should be a no-brainer for anyone not named Jordan Spieth.
"I was wrong about Jordan Spieth," Trevino said. "But I didn't think he was going to make $300 million by leaving college after one year. I told my son, 'Don't worry about him. He's doing fine. If he gets to the point where he can't play, he can buy a college and attend it.' "
One surprising fact you might not have known about Trevino? He carried a pistol in his golf bag for many years. It came about after several golfers were robbed while playing rounds for money at public courses in the area.
"Being Hispanic, I used to carry a knife," Trevino said. "But I wanted something that would bark here and bite over there. Then when they started checking luggage, I couldn't carry the .38 any more."
Now 76, Trevino said his daily schedule rarely varies.
"I get up every morning at 5, take my little puppies outside at 6," he said. "I'm in the gym by 7:30, I go to the golf course by 10, then I bob like a cork about 4 on the couch and then go to bed about 8:30 and start it all over again the next day."
It's hard to imagine golf history without the Merry Mex. His trademark smile. His open stance and power fade. His battles with -- and a rubber snake for -- Jack Nicklaus.
For all the respect Trevino has earned from playing golf, he reserved his respect for the more than 28,000 PGA Professionals who serve the PGA of America.
"I don't know who would want this job," Trevino said. "They are a special, special group of people -- these PGA Professionals. I have a lot of admiration for them.
"This is where I would have ended up. I would have been doing the same thing but I practiced hard enough to where I was a player instead of a PGA Professional."