Lee Trevino’s legendary “not even God can hit a 1-iron” punch line has a wild origin you might not be aware of.
Today is the 42nd anniversary of said origin. At the 1975 Western Open at Butler National in Oak Brook, Illinois, Lee Trevino was standing on the 13th green under an umbrella as rain poured down.
Also coming from the skies: Lightning. A bolt hit Trevino’s umbrella, rendering him unconscious (and presumably silent, for once).
At some point, a reporter asked the Merry Mex if he would do anything differently to avoid being struck by lightning should he find himself in a storm again. And it was to this question that Trevino gave his legendary reply, saying he’d hold a 1-iron in the air because not even God can hit the club.
Trevino, along with Jerry Heard and Bobby Nichols, was taken from the course by stretched to Hinsdale Hospital and Sanitarium. He suffered burns to his back, while Heard was burned on his leg and Nichols suffered damage to his head.
A piece in the New York Times from the day after the incident quoted a bystander thus.
“He rolled over a couple of times—I thought he was kidding, at first—then yelled, ‘I’ve been hit.” – eyewitness Ann Grassel
Arnold Palmer, also in the field, had an interesting experience as well. The King was in the middle of the 14th fairway when the lightning struck. He told reporters his club went flying from his hands.
Englishman Tony Jacklin said he felt “a burning sensation” and was knocked to the ground.
Nichols, one of the other golfers struck, reported a headache, a burning sensation, and a strange taste in his mouth, saying, “I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
Trevino talked about his electrical encounter 16 years later at the Senior PGA Championship, which was plagued by lightning strikes, one of which killed a fan.
He told reporters his body felt like it was exploding with electricity and his limbs shot out, shaking uncontrollably.
“It was a nice, warm feeling,” Trevino said. “Evidently, I was gone. The electricity stopped my heart. When I woke up, I was in pain. The doctor said if I hadn’t had such a strong heart I would be dead.”
Apparently, then, not only was Lee Trevino struck by electricity on this day, but the legendary Mexican-American star also died. Fortunately, the golf gods were kind enough to return Lee Buck Trevino to us.
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