July 18, 1951 - July 28, 2018
Hometown: Beaumont, Texas
Bruce Lietzke’s parents moved to Beaumont, Texas, from Kansas City when he was nine years old. He graduated from Forest Park High School in 1969 and earned a golf scholarship to the University of Houston out of high school.
By 1971 his game had begun to show the signs of brilliance that would make him a future PGA pro. That year he was the low scorer for his team in both the Tucker and Rice Invitationals. He capped off the year by winning the Texas State Amateur title in 1971.
He later won the Inwood Forest Tournament and was a member of the U.H. Cougar team, which won the Southwestern Conference match play tournament.
He earned his tour card and joined the PGA Tour in 1975. A Professional Golf Association tour card allows a player to compete in PGA tournaments. In his first eight tournaments, he finished in the top ten in five of them. He won 13 tournaments between 1977 and 1994, including the Tucson Open, Byron Nelson Classic, Southwestern Bell Colonial National Invitational (in 1980 and 1992), and two victories in the Canadian Open. Bruce was also selected to play on the U.S. Ryder Cup Team (1981) with his brother-in-law Jerry Pate and in a United States vs. Japan meet in 1984.
During his many years on the PGA tour, Lietzke never finished below 74th on the money list. This despite the fact that later in his career, he often played in just ten tournaments per year. In his first 100 tournaments, he made the cut in every instance. The “cut” is a designation of finishing in the top 70 after the first two of four rounds. Those who don’t make the cut do not continue on day three.
Bruce was renowned for hanging up his clubs to be with his family in the middle of the season, not practicing, and then appearing at a tournament and competing as if he’d never left. This ability was a source of bewilderment to other players that put in long hours of practice, particularly after a break. When Lietzke struck the ball, it always sliced or faded (curved to the right). Instead of fighting it, Bruce perfected his technique of placing the sliced ball exactly where he wanted it. His consistency was due in part to his unwillingness to change his swing.
After retiring from the PGA, many professional golfers would play on the Champions Tour for players over 50 years of age. Lietzke chose to do so and won seven additional tournaments. His biggest victory was the United States Senior Open which he won in 2003, a major that had long eluded him on the PGA Tour.
Lietzke was active in junior-level golf, citing it as very important to him. He participated in the Idlewyld Championship Clinic each year in Beaumont. His stated childhood influences were his brother Duane (who introduced him to golf and who coached him early on) and Henry Homberg, who was the golf pro at Tyrell Park Golf Course. He stated of Homberg that since he spent so much time on the Tyrell Park course, that he was like a second father to him and helped him to grow socially and spiritually.
Lietzke’s interviews always bent toward how important time with his family was to him and how little time he spent time playing golf. The pressure to play in a large number of tournaments to maintain one’s card is intense. As if he somehow knew his time was short, one year, Lietzke passed on the Houston Open to attend a church camp with his daughter. In 2017 Lietzke was diagnosed with cancer. He died a year later at the age of 67. At the time of his retirement, he was an astonishing 21st on the all-time PGA money list. His example is a lesson to everyone that tries to balance work and family. He is a member of the Museum of the Gulf Coast-Sports Hall of Fame.