BOB WEEST ON GOLF — Landry joining impressive MOGC golfing foursome

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Few topics get these writing juices flowing more than the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Thirteen years of putting together Port Arthur News Homecoming Roasts raised over $600,000 for that amazing facility, so it’s long been a source of ongoing pride.

As sports editor, I made it a point to take our Port Arthur News Super Team photos there. I wanted kids in the area to be exposed to it, in case they had never visited. More recently, it’s been a priority to salute the Bum Phillips High School Coach of the Year honoree in the museum.

Any opportunity to showcase and call attention to what I consider one of the most special places in Southeast Texas is always on my radar. So it is with using today’s column to put a spotlight on the Dec. 17 induction of Andrew Landry into the MOGC’s Sports Hall of Fame.

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It’s not a stretch at all to target Landry to dwell on golf’s place in the museum. That’s especially true considering it’s been eight years since the last golfer joined all the football, basketball and baseball stars enshrined. You must go back to Chris Stroud in December of 2014.

Upcoming then is a capsule look at the museum’s fabulous fivesome.

Best way to do this is take the fab five in chronological order of induction, if for no other reason than when Babe Zaharias is involved she should always go first. Babe rarely took a back seat to anybody in any sport, certainly golf. With her, the toughest thing is where to start.

Let’s see, she helped found the LPGA in 1950 and won 41 times in a relatively short professional career, including 10 majors. Three of those were U.S. Women’s Opens, with the most incredible victory coming while wearing a colostomy bag in 1954 in the final stages of a losing fight against colon cancer.

She made the cut thrice on the PGA Tour, finishing 33rd in the Phoenix Open and 42nd in the Tucson Open. She’s in the LPGA Hall of Fame. Golf success, combined with Olympics feats, helped her be named the Female Athlete of the 20th century and be selected 10th among ESPN’s Top 50 Athletes of the 20th century.

Babe’s been the subject of a movie and two books, her face was placed on a postage stamp in 1981, there is a museum devoted to her in Beaumont and she was posthumously presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.

Next on the tee is another Port Arthur native, Marty Fleckman. The Texas Amateur champion in 1964, the NCAA champ in 1965 and a two-time first team All-America at the University of Houston, Fleckman is one of golf’s most baffling stories.

He led the 1967 U.S. Open after the first and third rounds as an amateur, before pressure and some guy named Nicklaus ran him down. He won his first PGA Tour event – the 1967 Cajun Classic – in a playoff. He led or was tied for the lead in the 1968 PGA Championship after the first three rounds before finishing fourth.

Marty was the apple of PGA great Byron Nelson’s eye. Then it all slowly began to unravel. He never won and seldom contended again. But he made enough of an impact in a short period of time to be in the University of Houston Hall of Honor and the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, Beaumonter Bruce Lietzke steps up as the best male golfer with roots in Southeast Texas. Lietzke, nicknamed “Leaky” for his patented power fade, won 13 times on the PGA Tour and seven times on the Champions Tour. A devout family man who played a limited schedule, he was amazingly never below 74th on the tour money list.

Four of Lietzke’s titles came in Texas – two in the Colonial and two in the Byron Nelson. Not only did he win 13 times, he finished second six times, with playoff losses to Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples and Greg Norman. All he lacked on his PGA Tour resume was a major.

He narrowly missed when John Daly came out of nowhere to win the 1991 PGA, relegating Bruce to second. But he did claim the U.S. Senior Open in 2003. Sadly, brain cancer took him in 2018 at age 67.

Following Lietzke into the MOGC was Pea Patch alum and PN-G ex Stroud. Chris has the distinction of banking more money on the PGA Tour than any of the other locals — $13,230,283 in 16 steady years on the tour. His high-water mark was $1,826,399 in the 2013-14 season.

A two-time All-America at Lamar, Stroud’s lone PGA tour win came in the 2017 Barracuda Championship. He narrowly missed that first victory in the 2013 Travelers Championship, chipping in for birdie on the 72nd hole to force a playoff which Ken Duke won. His resume also included a win in the prestigious North-South Amateur at Pinehurst.

Then there’s Landry, the other Pea Patch alum and PN-G ex. Landry’s been somewhat up and down in his PGA Tour career but his ups have been spectacular. He won the 2018 Valero Texas Open by two shots, shooting four rounds in the 60s, and captured the 2020 America Express Championship by two in 2020.

Two years earlier in that same event, he birdied the 72nd hole to tie Jon Rahm, then lost a gut-wrenching four-hole playoff. The 2018 win in San Antonio and runner-up finish in the American Express propelled him to $2,642,179 in official winnings, the biggest single season ever for a player from Southeast Texas. His career earnings are $6,550,308.

Other than the wins, Landry’s signature moment came in the 2016 U.S. Open. He qualified his way into the field, shot 66 at storied Oakmont to lead after day one and was in the final pairing on Saturday and Sunday before finishing T15.

Andrew’s a worthy addition to what is indeed a fab five of area golf.

CHIP SHOTS: The fivesome of Bob Luttrell, John House, Lonnie Mosley, Keith Marshall and Dwayne Benoit scored a sweep in the Monday Senior 50 plus 2-ball, winning the font with minus 2 and the back with minus 1.

Closest to the pin winners were Ron Mistrot (No. 2, 8-5), Ron LaSalle (No. 7, 5-6, No. 12, 4-2 and Tony Trevino (No. 15, 11-11).

The Friday Senior game was played in a two-man scramble format. Winning 1st flight with a 66 was the duo of Bob West-Danny Robbins. Joe Gongora-Charlie Leard took 2nd Flight with 68. Third flight ended in a tie at 72 between Art Turner-James Johnson and Benoit-Jeff Romero.

Closest to the pin winners were West (No. 2, 9-0), LaSalle (No. 7, 5-5), Trevino (No. 12, 5-5) and Robbins (No. 15, 1-1).

All points count was the format for the Nov. 30 Zaharias DogFight. Winning with 21 points was the team of Keith Mullins, Lee Bertrand, Paul Duplantis and Jeff Rinehart. Teams captained by LaSalle and Jim Cady tied for second with 16 points

Closest to the pins were Mullins (No. 2, 1-8), Rufus Reyes (No. 7, 10-9), Don MacNeil (No. 12, 14-7) and Dan Flood (No. 15, 12-1)

Golf news should be emailed to rdwest@usa.net