In 32 years of professional golf, Tom Lehman had never played competitively at Oak Tree National.
Monday, Lehman came to the course for the first time to get a leg up on the competition in the U.S. Senior Open.
Lehman has won five PGA tour events including the 1996 Open Championship and eight on the Champions Tour.
He talked with The Oklahoman about the roots of his long career in golf and his life on tour.
Like most kids, my dad played. He would drag us out to the course and make us shag balls for him and caddy and all that kind of stuff. Staring in third grade, second grade I was out there shagging for him. He had a big bag of balls and he’d go hit them and we’d go catch them and return them. That’s how I got started.
I realized I wanted to do this for a living say after my sophomore year in college. Up until that point it was just a dream. At that point I felt like it could be a reality. I just had a really good year. I was from Minnesota, so I didn’t have a lot of experience, but I had a great year, won a bunch of tournaments, beat a bunch of really good players along the way.
I think if you look at most successful people, if you ask most of them their biggest influence was their dad. My dad was very involved. He was a great competitor himself. He played all the sports, played football professionally, so he understood competing and he helped me to understand what hard work was, commitment, dedication, mental strength. He helped me learn all these things as a kid.
I just can’t stomach playing poorly. More than anything I hate not getting the most out of my game. Two weeks ago, for example, I won. This past week, I finished 20th, and it just wrangles me so bad. To finish where I finished, it just irritates me to no end. I think that more than the winning, the weeks where I don’t play well are what drive me the most.
I’m married. Four kids. Two boys. Two girls. 24, 21, those are the girls. The boys are 18 and 11.
Time, things you miss — those are the biggest issues, juggling the schedules. You’re always going to miss some things that are important. That’s just impossible to avoid, so its ‘How do I minimize the damage?’ I think that’s been the biggest thing is trying to figure out a way.
I think we’ve come up with a really good solution. I never was gone for more than two weeks. Still to this day that’s the way it is. I try to do it so that if I’m not golfing, I’m home. I don’t take a week off of golf and go fishing.
Whatever event has been held (at Oak Tree) I wasn’t in the field. You hear about the stories, I’ve heard (Bob) Tway and (Scott) Verplank talk about the course for years and years, the guys who have played here always talk about how tough it is, so it’s nice to finally see it.
Pete Dye courses kind of follow the same pattern in that it’s very penal if you miss in the wrong spots. Not at all unlike Sawgrass and other places that he’s done. Once you’ve played one course, you get an idea of how he thinks, and it falls right in line with that. There’s places you certainly can’t miss.
I would say any USGA event is at the pinnacle. Starting at the U.S. Junior, the U.S. Open, the U.S. Senior, they’re all the ones that you cherish the most. Whoever wins here will earn it.