(Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

(Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

(Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

(Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

(Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

Lee Trevino competes in the Pacific Masters Golf Tournament at the Sobu Country Club in October, 1972.

Lee Trevino competes in the Pacific Masters Golf Tournament at the Sobu Country Club in October, 1972. (Masahiko Nakamura / ©S&S)

INZAI, Japan — Brash and breezy Lee Trevino declared Thursday the only way he can catch Jack Nicklaus on the money earning list this year would be to "rob a bank."

The flamboyant Trevino is in Japan to play in the $300,000 Pacific Masters Golf Tournament being held here at the par 71 Sobu Country Club.

Trevino Thursday shot a commendable even par first-round 71. Perhaps incredible considering that he had just spent 187 hours flying here from the U.S. in two days with no sleep and no prior practice on the course.

Talking about his round, "Mighty Mex" jokingly blamed his amigo, Orville Moody, for his first-hole bogey.

"Orville gave me some notes he had. On the first hole, he had noticed that one point on the fairway was 176 yards to the center of the green. I made it out to be 166 and overshot. You know us Mexicans, we're grape pickers, not counters," Lee jested.

Turning serious for a minute, Trevino noted that the course wasn't really that tough for him.

"It's a very good thing to get in a practice round. As it was, I was two over on the front and two over on the back. And with some good putting, I believe that I can shoot four or five under in the next round. I just didn't know the speed of the greens. They hold real well and are in good shape. After some rest, I'm really going to shoot 'em up."

Trevino, who has taken down four titles this year — the British Open, Hartford Open, Danny Thomas Classic and three weeks ago the Greater St. Louis Golf Classic — was last. in Japan in 1959 during a hitch as a U.S. Marine.

Turning on his humourous side once again, the El Paso resident related what happened the last time he came to Tokyo from his base in Okinawa.

"I came up here, sold a pair of golf clubs, stayed up all night drinking and other things. I went into a restaurant and wow was I hungry. A girl brought me a menu. She couldn't speak English and the menu was in Japanese. So, I just pointed." Falling back in his chair, Lee roared out that he had gotten a bowl of ice cream.

"And I ate it, too, because I was hungry. I can remember that it was near the Ginza. While I'm here, the Ginza is where I'm headed, this time with a pocketful of money," he laughed, inviting everyone in earshot to come along.

Still not being able to speak Japanese did not bar the ever-popular Trevino and the Japanese from communicating with each other Thursday.

During his round, he would often whistle, sing, throw out one-liners and just plain cut up.

Turning his comments to the American pro tour, Trevino said that he had earned about $200,000 this year as compared to the tour money leader, Nicklaus, who has $380,000.

"Jack is going to pass $300,000 this year, and I couldn't catch him, let alone pass him, if I robbed a bank. I say he is going to pass the $300,000 mark because he is going to play in four more tournaments.

"As for myself, I want to pass the $1 million mark soon. I have been on the tour now for just five seasons, and in that time I've got about $835,000. My goal is to hit that mark and then slack off a bit."

Lee's rags-to-riches saga goes back to 1967 when his wife sent his entry to the local qualifier for the U.S. Open. Lee went all the way and collected $6,000 by finishing fifth. The next year, he captured the U.S. Open title and was on his way.

The year 1971 was his biggest. During one unbelievable stretch of 11 weeks in the early summer, Trevino won the U.S. Open, Canadian Open and British Open plus the Tallahassee Open and the Danny Thomas Classic. He missed winning three other titles by a mere stroke in each.

"Today, there are 300 players on the tour capable of winning. It comes down to who wants to work the hardest will win: And I have been working hard for five years," he said, turning serious again.

Asked about tour purses getting larger, he voiced his hopes that the prizes don't get any bigger.

"There's more than enough money on the tour. We're liable to out-price ourselves right out of business if the average working man can't come to a golf tournament. Sure, there are sponsors to defray some of the costs, but if higher purses cause the gate to go up and the regular guy can't take a weekend to see some golf because of the expense, we lose.

"I like to see the working guy out here. I don't like to see him get shut out. Some other pros say, `Well, Lee, you can say that because you already have yours,' but I've been saying this for five years."

Following the tournament here, Trevino heads for London. From there, he stops at San Francisco, San Antonio, Las Vegas and finally Los Angeles to film a TV show.

"And then it's going to be quits on Dec. 1 for 30 days to rest up. But then, I have to start this business all over again come January."

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