Bruce Lietzke, who won the 2003 U.S. Senior Open, died on July 28 at the age of 67 following a year-long battle with brain cancer. The Dallas, Texas, resident was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive malignant tumor on April 12, 2017, according to Golf Digest.
A 13-time winner on the PGA Tour and seven-time winner on the PGA Tour Champions, Lietzke won the 2003 U.S. Senior Open by two strokes over Tom Watson at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Lietzke made eight U.S. Senior Open starts, his last coming in 2011 when the championship returned to Inverness. He also tied for third in 2006 at Prairie Dunes in Hutchison, Kan.
Born in Kansas City, Mo., on July 18, 1951, Lietzke moved to Beaumont, Texas, with his parents in 1960 before attending the University of Houston and eventually turning pro in 1974. His first PGA Tour victory came in the 1977 Tucson Open. But golf never defined Lietzke; he made a point of spending long stretches at home, and was an avid fisherman and car collector.
“To make it work like he did (a great family, a 628-acre Texas ranch), anyone would have liked to have done it like Bruce,” Bill Rogers, a former teammate at the University of Houston, told pgatour.com. “He did it the way he wanted to do it and in truth, he lived out his dream.”
Lietzke was known to play a bunch of tournaments through May and then have a light summer schedule. Despite a long PGA Tour career, Lietzke only played in 11 U.S. Opens and none after turning 34. His best finish in a U.S. Open was a tie for 17th in 1981, while his best finish in a major was as the runner-up to John Daly in the 1991 PGA Championship.
“I used to get on him about not trying to qualify [for the U.S. Open],” two-time U.S. Open champion and Fox golf analyst Curtis Strange told pgatour.com. “He was a heck of a driver of the golf ball.”
But Lietzke never wavered from his schedule, preferring to spend time with his wife, Rose, and two children, Stephen and Christine, over playing tournament golf. He was a member of the USA Ryder Cup Team in 1981, when he also had his best season on Tour with three victories, finishing second in scoring average and fourth on the money list.
He was also well-known for his aversion to practice. One of the great Lietzke stories occurred late in 1985. His longtime caddie, Al Hansen, wasn’t buying the fact that his man didn’t pick up a club during the winter. So Hansen secretly tucked a banana under one of his head covers after the last tournament of 1985. When Lietzke arrived for the Bob Hope Desert Classic to begin his 1986 season, he lifted the head cover to find the stench of a rotten banana.
“And the best part of the story is it’s true,” Strange said.
Lietzke leaves his wife and two children as well as his brother-in-law, 1976 U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate. Pate’s wife, Soozie, and Rose Lietzke are sisters.
David Shefter is a senior writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.