PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Sports

August 20, 2013

West column: Lietzke still paying tribute to Henry Homberg

PORT ARTHUR — Bruce Lietzke won’t speculate on what path life might have taken if his dad hadn’t been transferred from Wichita to Beaumont when he was nine-years old. It’s obvious, however, from listening to him talk about the late Henry Homberg’s influence on what became a highly successful PGA Tour career that the transfer was something close to divine intervention.

    “Two things happened because of that move,” says the 62-year-old Lietzke. “I was able to play golf year round, so my game didn’t fall off because of being shut down in the winter. Even more important, it enabled me to meet Mr. Homberg and learn from him. Because of all the  hours I was at Tyrrell Park as  kid, I think he spent as much time looking over my shoulder as my dad did.”

    Lietzke’s love for Homberg, and his wife Juel, is why he’s part of a junior tournament in Beaumont every summer, and why he’ll be headed back in September for the fifth rendition of an event called the Tyrrell Park 40 Year Junior Golfers Reunion. It’s set for Sept. 13-15 and is open to anyone who played junior golf or college golf at Tyrrell from 1942 to 1982.

    According to Idylwild pro Ronnie Pfleider, who learned the golf business under Homberg, the idea for a Tyrrell Park reunion dates back to 1999.

    “Several guys who used to play at Tyrrell as kids got to talking about the good old days,” said Pfleider. “I think it was during Bruce’s junior tournament. I remember Jimmy Singletary being in on the conversation. And Gerald Richardson. The more we talked, the more everybody liked the idea of putting some sort of reunion together.”

    Reunion tourneys have been held in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2010. Originally, the plan was to hold the event every three years, but Hurricane Ike and another rainout wreaked havoc. Sixty-five guys showed up for the inaugural tournament and it’s averaged about 50 players ever since. Getting the word out has always been a challenge. So has picking a date that works for the masses.

    One thing remains constant. Bruce Lietzke shows up because the reunion traces back to Henry Homberg.

    “I’m still trying to repay the things Mr. and Mrs. Homberg did for me in the years they helped raise me,” he explains.

    Lietzke loves to tell how his mother used to drop him off at Tyrrell Park around 8 each morning. She would give him $2 and tell him she would pick him up at 5. He’d pay $1.50 for an 18-hole junior greens fee, then blow the other 50 cents on a drink and a snack when the round was complete.

    After that, he and some of the kids who lived near Tyrrell would hang out playing games on the putting green. Since Tyrrell Park didn’t have a full-sized practice area, they could only work on 7-iron through wedge. One day Homberg walked up and asked them why they were just hanging around. They told him they were out of money and didn’t have anywhere else to go.

    That led to him making them an offer they couldn’t refuse — picking up trash along holes 1 and 10 each day in return for a complimentary round of golf in the afternoon.

    “It was a great life lesson,” recalls Lietzke. “For a little work and effort we were rewarded by getting to do what we wanted to do — go out and play more golf. Making it even better, Mr. Homberg would be out at No. 1 tee as the starter. We would do our work, then come to the tee and he’d get us right off.

    “He would tell guys waiting to play that these boys have been doing some work for me and have earned the right to play. If you don’t mind, I’m going to let them tee off right now. It made me feel like a million dollars. I can’t imagine something like that happening today at a public course. A pro would get crucified for letting kids out in front of paying customers.”

    Homberg apparently saw something special in Lietzke. Although he never worked with him on his game — Bruce’s brother Duane was his swing coach — there were tips about mental approach, etiquette, rules and on-course strategy. One of his best suggestions was for Lietzke to always play the ball down, even at Tyrrell where the gumbo fairways got hard and crusty in the summer.

    “We used to bump it just about everywhere,” Lietzke recalled. “I came back from a junior tournament one day — I think I was maybe 11 or 12 — and Mr. Homberg asked me how it went. I told him I hit the ball pretty good and putted well but I didn’t score because I had a lot of bad lies.

    “He pulled me off to the side and said  I know this is going to be hard for you because your buddies are going to bump the ball. But you need to be disciplined enough to play the ball down here at Tyrrell. He went on to explain why it’s so much easier to hit the ball off nice turf and good lies, but that playing the ball down would lead to me shooting better scores. And it did.”

    Homberg would live long enough to see Lietzke win 11 of his  13 PGA tournament titles in a career that was remarkable not only for how much he won, but how he did it. With his family the top priority in his life, and always being there for his son and daughter, Lietzke never played more than 25 tournaments in a year. And not more than  20 after 1988. Yet he was almost always competitive when he showed up.

    The Lietzke resume includes seven victories on the Champions Tours, highlighted by a two-shot victory over Tom Watson in the 2003 U.S. Senior Open. There almost certainly would have been more Champions Tour triumphs, but an ailment called “frozen shoulder” began to plaque him in late 2003. Ultimately, it attacked both shoulders.  His game would never be the same.

    Though frozen shoulder is no longer an issue, bursitis and arthritis in the shoulder are. At a time when guys his age are still competing and winning, Lietzke is unable to play back-to-back rounds because of pain. When he comes in for the Tyrrell Park reunion, he’ll be mostly limited to iron shots and putting on the second day.

    No need to feel sorry for him, however. Bruce is living the good live on his ranch 75 miles southeast of Dallas. As long as the fish are biting — he’s got a 50-acre lake and two 20-acre lakes — you won’t hear any complaining. Well, maybe he’ll fuss a little over the Dallas Cowboys continued ineptitude.

    Indeed, Lietzke has a sunny philosophy that extends to the the inflated PGA Tour purses that dwarf payoffs he collected. Chris Stroud, whom Lietzke follows and roots for, has won more money this season ($1.5 million) than Lietzke ever did in one year. In 1981, when he won three tournaments, his winnings totaled $343,444. In his biggest year, fueled by the U.S. Senior Open, he pocketed $1.1 million.

    “People used to ask Byron Nelson about the money he’d have made in another era,” Lietzke says. “Bryon would say the money didn’t matter, that he loved the time he played and the guys like Ben Hogan that he competed against. I feel the same way. One of these days when Chris Stroud looks back, I bet he’ll tell you the same thing about the era in which he played.”

    Somewhere Henry Homberg is smiling. That’s exactly the kind of answer he’d have wanted his protégé to give.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net.

    

      

    

    

  

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Bassmaster Elites are coming back

    The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
    The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
    I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
    It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
    • Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
    Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
    Beginning probably in the early fall we will see many anglers fishing local waters to get a better idea on how to approach the area.
    • East to West Runs-The Elite anglers fished far and wide but I expect even more running next go-round. After launching from the Simmons Drive Boat Ramp in Orange angler Bill Lowen ran down the Intracoastal, across Galveston Bay and fished in the Clear Lake area and placed in the top 12. The more adventurous anglers will try super long runs, in my opinion, even longer than last time to try and score on big fish. The Intracoastal Canal system makes that possible.
    • Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
    • Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
     It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
    The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
    We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
    It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on GETV.org)

    July 23, 2014

  • Mid County knocked out of tournament

    The Mid County 16-18 Babe Ruth squad’s run to the World Series is over.

    July 22, 2014

  • West golf notepad: West duo claims title in Texas Father-Son

    July 22, 2014

  • Mid County sets up championship series with Tri County

    The Southwest Regional Babe Ruth championship series is set and yes the hometown Mid County squad will be there to play.

    July 21, 2014

  • MC Babe Ruth goes 2-0

    First things first, give Clint Landry and the rest of the officials credit for making the Southwest Regional Babe Ruth tournament possible this weekend at Nederland High School.

    July 19, 2014

  • Up the odds for solid bank fishing

    There are certain limitations to fishing without a boat.

    July 19, 2014

  • Derek Williams, Summer Money League light up the lanes at Max Bowl

    Thursday nights Summer Money League produced some very impressive scores.

    July 19, 2014

  • West column: Pacers hiring Pat Knight didn't help Lamar

    July 19, 2014

  • Babe Ruth.jpg Mid County Babe Ruth set to host Southwest Regional

    The Mid County Babe Ruth 18U team is once again knocking on the World Series door. Mid County will host the Southwest Regional at Nederland High School starting today. Mid County’s first game of the tournament is slated for 7 p.m. Friday against Pine Bluff, Ark. Thursday was a special day for Mid County Babe Ruth as two locals, Jimmy Collins (shown speaking) and Skip Hopkins (back left) were inducated intot he Southwest Regional Babe Ruth Hall of Fame. Both Hopkins and Collins have been involved in Babe Ruth for over 40 consecutive years either as player, coach or board member. There are nine teams in the tournament with the winner headed to Washington state for the World Series.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • West golf notepad: Eleven-year-old Henry scores ace in YMBL tourney

    July 15, 2014

From the Fieldhouse blog