Tony Lema (1933-1966) had a witty and good natured disposition. Tony started his PGA career in 1959. Tony won his first "official" PGA event in late 1962, when he defeated Bob Rosburg in a playoff for the Orange County Invitational. It was here that Tony established his famous nickname, by serving champagne to the press instead of the tradional beer, as was the custom back then. Prior to winning for the first time, Tony struggled with his swing and a sometimes mecurial temperment. Later known on the circuit as "Champagne Tony", Lema was remembered for his easy going manner, at least when he was in a good mood. Many of his fans and even many fellow pros always believed in his potential. With the help and encouragment of several of his fellow tour pros, Tony slowly worked his way into the winner's circle. In the seven years that followed, Lema won 10 events, including two Buick Opens and the 1964 British Open at Royal Saint Andrews, that one major win on his first visit there. The effort made Tony the first American since Ben Hogan (1953) to win The British Open on a first attempt. The British Open win was a crowning achievement in a career tragically cut short two years later at the young age of 32. Tony died on his way to an exhibition match in Chicago, to be held right after the 1966 PGA Championship in Akron, Ohio. He and his wife of only three years both lost their lives, when unbelievably their chartered light plane ran out of fuel, and in a stroke of irony, actually crashed on a golf course! Answer In 1959 I started following Jack Nicklaus at Ohio State. Jack turned pro in 1962 and I followed everything he did. He was my super-hero. And the one man that I feared the most was "Tony Lema".
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