BOB WEST ON GOLF: Lietzke encounters setback in battle with brain cancer

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2018

It has been almost exactly a year since Bruce Lietzke underwent surgery to remove a golf ball size tumor from his brain.

The days, weeks and months that followed were mostly encouraging, as chemo and radiation treatments proved effective against a virulent form of cancer called Gioblastoma.

The former Beaumonter, who won 13 tournaments on the PGA Tour and seven more on the Champions Tour, regained strength to the point where he could walk 2 miles a day. He was able to fish, enjoy his grandchildren and even traveled to Washington D.C. last month to attend the National Prayer Breakfast.

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Then vertigo hit. He could not stand up on his own. Subsequent testing revealed tumors had returned along the vestibular nerves in his brain. That meant more chemo and radiation treatments, and his body rebelled. He couldn’t keep food down and lost roughly 25 pounds.

“It’s been a tough stretch,” Lietzke said Monday. “Nausea has been a real problem. I have lost ground from where I was. It does appear tumor cells are floating around in the brain. They are not forming and growing, but there are enough to require radiation.

“I had five radiation treatments last week to try to reduce those new cancer cells. They don’t want to do more chemo because my blood has had enough. The MRIs look okay, but the doctors think they could be better. My goal at this point is to get past the nausea, keep food down and starting gaining weight.”

Any exercise Lietzke gets these days requires the assistance of a walker. He remains alert but tires easily. On Sunday, he watched as much of the Masters as possible but couldn’t stay with it all the way.

“I watched as much as I could and enjoyed it,” he said. “What I saw was pro golf at its best at one of the best venues ever. I was really pleased to see one of the one guys I battled, Fred Couples, play so well. Nobody knows that course like he does. He’s like an old, local caddie when it comes to strategy.”

Lietzke, because he hit a high fade, did not have a strong track record in the Masters, but he recalled once holding the the first round lead. He thought it was 1977 but it was actually 1979. He did correctly remember signing for a 67.

After ensuing rounds of 75-68-74 he would finish tied for sixth and earn a whopping $2,000. That 1979 Masters saw Fuzzy Zoeller outlast Ed Sneed and Tom Watson in a playoff. The other names ahead of Lietzke on the leaderboard were Jack Nicklaus and Tom Kite.

“It was a great week,” he said, in what is a now raspy voice.

Hopefully, there are more great weeks ahead for Lietzke, who has long been a champion for junior golf in Southeast Texas. As was the request in this column on April 19, 2017, please include Bruce in your prayers.


Tom LeTourneau went 57 years without making a hole in one, then sank two within 72 hours. On the same hole, at almost the exact same time of day, but not with the same club.

Ace No. 1 came on the 109-yard, seventh hole with a 50 degree wedge into a stiff wind last Wednesday in the Babe Zaharias DogFight. Witnesses were Cap Hollier and Paul Duplantis.

No. 2 followed from 122 yards on Saturday with a 9-iron. Don MacNeil, who recently made a hole-in-one on the 15th at Zaharias, Thad Borne and Roy Carlin were his playing partners.

“The pin was just over a ridge and I didn’t think the ball went in,” said LeTourneau, of the second ace. “The other guys said it did. When we got to the green, I didn’t see the ball. I looked in the hole and there it was.”

Somebody needs to call Golf Digest and get some odds.

The Beaumont resident and founder of LeTourneau Prosthetics played again Tuesday and knocked his tee shot within 10 feet on the seventh hole. He was actually pulling for that one not to go in for fear “lightning would strike me dead on the spot.”

Noteworthy about the two aces is that LeTourneau authored them after watching a YouTube video from Korean golfer Aimee Cho titled “A Secret to the Perfect Grip.” He saw the video on Tuesday, adjusted his grip and was rewarded with a hole in one the next day.

Because that ace came in the Zaharias DogFight, LeTourneau collected a $200 jackpot. It says here that Tom should do the right thing, track down Aimee Cho and send her a check for half the payoff.

Who knows, she might want him to star in her next video . . .

PNG ex Braden Bailey, who had struggled a bit since taking medalist honors in the University of Arizona’s tournament in February, finished tied for 15th in the Aggie Invitational at Traditions Golf Club in College Station last weekend.

The Baylor junior shot rounds of 74-76-72 for a 54-hole total of six-over-par 222. Baylor finished seventh, 27 strokes behind Oklahoma State …

Karlei Hemler delivered her strongest showing yet as a freshman at McNeese State, shooting rounds of 74-75-74 in the Bobcat Invitational at the Club of Estrella in Goodyear, Arizona. The 54-hole total of 223 for the Port Neches-Groves ex earned her a tie for 12th in a field of 86 players.

Hemler managed to shoot two-over-par 74 in Tuesday’s final round, despite a triple bogey on her eighth hole of the day. She helped McNeese tie for seventh place …

In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball game at Babe Zaharias, the team of Russ Gloede, Harrell Guidry, Dan Flood and Dwayne Benoit scored a sweep. They were minus-2 on the front and plus-2 on the back …

The Friday Senior 2-ball at Zaharias saw the team of Benny Sharpe, Joe Gongora, Charles Leard and a ghost player take the front in minus-4. On the back, the foursome of Gloede, Ron Mistrot, Flood and Pete Reobroi won with minus-3.

The Wednesday DogFight at Zaharias ended a two-way tie at 14 points between the team of Rick Pritchett, Leard, Benoit and Paul Brown and the team of LeTourneau, Hollier, Duplantis and a ghost player. Closest-to-the-pin winners were Guidry (No. 2) and Ed Holley (No. 12).

Entries are being taken for the 11th annual Groves Knights of Columbus Fetters Center four-person scramble. The event, set for an 8 a.m. shotgun start on April 21 at Babe Zaharias, benefits the Estelle and Allen Fetters Center.

Fee for a team is $240. Individuals can enter for $60 and be placed with a team. Included in the entry fee are food and drinks. In addition to team prizes, there will be closest to the pin and long drive awards for open and senior divisions.

Call Leroy Falcon at 962-5047 or 960-2475, or Mike Melancon at 962-4755 or 289-1781. Entry blanks are also available at the Zaharias Golf Shop …

To repeat last week’s offer, I have free any-day passes and parking passes available for next week’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Anyone who would like to attend need to email me with the number of tickets needed as soon as possible.

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