Lietzke at 50 and Hes Ready to Roll


The rookie from Beaumont, Tx., came roaring down Interstate 10, crossing the California state line and inching up on Palm Springs. He had asked somebody back in Arizona how to get to Riviera Country Club, and he listened intently to the reply: just go past Palm Springs toward Los Angeles, you cant miss it.
So, just outside of Palm Springs, he saw what looked like a satisfactory hotel. Hmmm, I guess Ill stay here, he thought.
He went inside, got the room and unpacked. He marched out ready to go, stopping by the front desk to ask directions to Riviera.
The hotel staff exchanged puzzled glances. Well, the clerk said, theres a golf course a couple of miles away. She wasnt certain of its name. Would the young man want to play there?
Bruce Lietzke stumbled and stammered momentarily ' was this not the Los Angeles Open? Was not Riviera just up the street someplace?
No, the desk clerk said kindly, Riviera isnt up the street. I found out that I was about 90 miles away, said Lietzke. Boy, I found out in a hurry that Los Angeles is a lot more spread out than Beaumont.
Lietzke plays the PGA Tour for the final time at the MasterCard Colonial. He is 49, almost 50, and he says he might play a regular tour event or two in the future, but he is a confirmed Senior Tour rookie at the conclusion of this event. And no more bonehead moves, he said with a laugh, remembering that first Los Angeles trip back in 1975.
Lietzke has been looking forward to this week since the mid-80s. In 1988 he was certain the Senior Tour was here to stay. He had his children after marrying at 30 and with both nearly fully grown, he can play and do a little sight-seeing. He has long been known as the player who takes long stretches off, only to come out and play some pretty decent golf. He then retreats to his wife and children again, only to peek out long enough to return to golf long enough to make a nice check.
There was a time when he did it differently. The first eight years, he played a normal schedule. When his eldest, son Steven, was born in 1983, he drastically reduced his schedule. A year when he played 12 tournaments was a big deal.
By cutting back, though, he saved something that perhaps other golfers dont have. He has had a full family life, enjoyed several hobbies, coached his sons softball and golf teams.
I think that if I had continued ' I played eight full campaigns and then my kids came along ' if my kids had not come along and I had maintained that pace for a few more years, I could have had four or five more excellent years of winning, he said. He had nine wins his first eight years, only four his last 17. However, he perfected the art of playing a little and winning a lot.
Lietzke has been the ultimate homebody. If he hadnt been so inactive, I think I would have left the tour in 1990, he said.
If you continue to push yourself ' and I did push myself for eight years ' I think my enthusiasm would have waned somewhere. I have no regrets. I did exactly what I wanted to do. I was able to have a family ' to be a father and a husband, which became way more important that golf.
Despite playing so seldom, he finished 16th on the money list in 1992 and was as high as 79th in 98. Now, though, theres some pressing business to take care of.
Ive got another place to go out and chase my dreams, he said. Golf probably isnt going to be my No. 1 priority anymore, but I can continue to play the game that I love. I dont do anything else. I dont have a business. I dont design courses or anything like that. Tournament golf is all Ive ever known, and the Senior Tour gives me a chance to do that.
Most Senior events began Fridays instead of Thursdays, so Lietzke and wife Rosemarie can take full advantage of sight-seeing. Hes going to see a lot of things he missed on the regular tour, things that he was just too busy to see.
July 18th is the day he turns 50. Get the RVs ready. Bruce is loose, and hes headed your way.