Harris County – Houston Sports Authority

The Insider: Golfer Lietzke had life figured out

The golf world said farewell to Bruce Lietzke. Bob Levey/Getty Images

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Before you ask, the answer is yes.

The banana story is true.

Bruce Lietzke’s caddie did indeed put a banana under a head cover at the end of the 1984 season to see if Lietzke really was telling the truth; that he wasn’t going to touch his clubs again until the start of the 1985 season.

Lietzke was true to his word. The bag stayed in his garage until he flew to Palm Springs in January and opened it. The smell was awful. And the persimmon driver? It was ruined thanks to a nasty black fungus. So was the bag.

That story is legend. So was Lietzke.

The man was a classic. A natural. He was honest, funny, humble, a great story teller and he never passed up a chance to take a minute and catch up with an old friend.

He was a man who did it his way, putting family, friends and fishing – and his collection of restored classic cars -- above golf. Far above it.

When word spread last Saturday that the 67-year-old former University of Houston star, 13-time PGA TOUR winner and  7-time Champions Tour winner had lost his 16-month battle with glioblastoma, the tributes flowed across social media.

Lietzke – Lieky to his friends -- passed away at his 625-acre ranch in Henderson County, near Athens, Tex., his family by his side. He fought the same aggressive brain cancer that took the life of Cathy Bryant, the wife of his fellow Champions player Bart Bryant.

“We hunted, we fished, but most importantly, we all laughed with 'Lieky.' He was truly one of the good guys, and will be missed,” two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange posted on Twitter.

Lietzke, whose service is Monday, was the best part-time golfer the TOUR has ever seen. He never played more than 20 events a year and played just three Open Championships because he didn’t want to be away from his family. He played the events he wanted and courses he liked. He could toss out a helluva round any time, anywhere. And his success allowed him to live the life he wanted.

He played a perfect fade – a signature shot he developed out of necessity as a mini-tour player in the mid-1970s.

It was so natural he didn’t need to practice. And he didn’t want to.

"I'm just kind of a freak of nature in that I don't want my swing to improve,’’ he once said. “I want it to be exactly like it was yesterday."

Ben Crenshaw, a close friend, would shake his head.

“We’re so jealous of someone who can put clubs down and come back out and play,’’ Crenshaw said. “He has some of the best hand-eye coordination I’ve seen.

 '' . . . . When I look at Bruce, I think of one of Harvey's (famed teacher Harvey Penick’s) favorite sayings. He said the players
that play the best are the ones who know themselves the best.
Bruce knows himself.''

Truth told, Lietzke didn’t like the spotlight. He loved to play and hang out with his buddies like Crenshaw, Strange, college roommate Bill Rogers, Jay Haas and brother-in-law Jerry Pate. If a win popped up in the equation, great. If it didn’t, there was always another week, another chance.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t fiercely competitive on the course. He was. He grew up playing against – and with – those old friends all the way back to his junior days. And through those first seven years on TOUR, he admits golf “fed his ego’’ and he won nine times.

But it was wife Rose, son Stephen and daughter Christine that grounded him and his stable of cars – not trophies – that made him smile. His 1967 Corvette Stingray and a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda topped that four-wheel, pride-and-joy toys list. And when he was home, he was home. No golf.

The last time Lietzke hit a golf ball? His last Champions Tour event in 2011. His last win? The 2003 U.S. Senior Open when he beat Tom Watson by two shots.

The ranch? No golf holes, no putting green. Just rolling East Texas pastures and water. Lietzke’s heaven on earth.

Like Hall of Famer Byron Nelson, who walked away from the game at 34, Lietzke didn’t regret his choices. He had a great life, a full life that was cut way too short.

“To make it work like he did,’’ Rogers told pgatour.com, “anyone would have liked to have done it like Bruce. He did it the way he wanted to do it and, in truth, he lived out his dream.

“. . . He was my best friend and the most strong-minded person I have ever been around. He also understood that the best of life comes from relationships – family and friends. I will miss him terribly.”







 

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Houston gets back in the win column

Astros end six-game skid thanks to a gem by Greinke

Zack Greinke tossed a gem Saturday night. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

After the Mariners roared back Friday night to get a walk-off win over the Astros, dashing their hopes of ending their losing streak, Houston tried to even the series with a win on Saturday night with their ace Zack Greinke on the mound. Greinke would do his part, throwing a terrific game, and the Astros would squeak out one run, which was enough to get back in the win column.

Final Score: Astros 1, Mariners 0

Astros' Record: 7-7, fourth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Chris Flexen (1-1)

Plenty of hits, but only one run

Although the Astros were racking up hits against Chris Flexen, they had little to show for it. Eight different batters would notch ten hits against him, but the only time it amounted to a run was on a two-out RBI-single by Taylor Jones in the top of the fourth, giving Houston a 1-0 lead.

Greinke spins a gem

Luckily for them, Zack Greinke was making it look like that would be enough. He cruised through the Mariners all night, allowing just four hits while giving up zero runs along with six strikeouts, one of which moved him past 2,700 on his career. He could have attempted to finish the complete-game shutout, but at 91 pitches after eight, Dusty Baker opted to bring in closer Ryan Pressly for the ninth. Greinke's final line: 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 91 P.

Houston finally ends their losing streak

With the high-leverage save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered to hold on to the one-run lead. He would do his job, finishing off the win for Greinke and putting an end to Houston's disappointing losing streak.

Up Next: The third and final game of this series will get underway at 3:10 PM Central on Sunday. Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will look to make a rebound from his disappointing first start with the Astros, while the Mariners will start Nick Margevicius (0-1, 7.04 ERA).

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