Lee Trevino, as only he can, gave a president an important putting tip

Lee Trevino

Lee Trevino at last year's PNC Championship.

Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice didn’t pick up golf until she was 50. She didn’t really learn about putting, though, until she played with Lee Trevino

Today, Rice is a golf nut. A secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, she  became one of the first female members of Augusta National. This week, she was named this year’s Ambassador of Golf ahead of the Senior Players Championship. Still, she remembers well her start in the game. 

“Three-day camp at the Greenbrier,” Rice said this week at the ceremony naming her the ambassador. “The first day, we’re hitting 7-iron, 7-iron, 7-iron, and I’m thinking this is every bit as boring as I thought it was. The second day, we’re hitting 7-iron, 7-iron, 7-iron. 

“The third day, they handed me a driver and it went [motions forward], and I thought, I have my sport.”

In an interview with GOLF earlier this year, Rice described those first days similarly. 

“It was [in 2006], the summer after I became Secretary of State. I went on vacation with my cousin at the Greenbrier in West Virginia,” Rice said. “I had been a figure skater growing up, and I’d always been athletic. Anyway, her husband gave us lessons, and the first day, they had us hitting 7-iron, 7-iron, 7-iron, and I was so bored. The second day, they let us hit a driver, and I knew I had found my new sport.”

“Ah, so it was the big dog,” GOLF writer Chris Nashawaty said. 

“Exactly,” Rice said. “And when I returned to D.C. I would go out to [the course at] Andrews Air Force Base, and I found a pro there. When you’re secretary of state, they shut down the front six and the back six, and you can get out there and wander around. I fell in love with the game. It was my one chance to get outside and escape. If it was 37 degrees or above, I would be there.”

This brings us to Rice, Trevino, the lesson and one helluva story. 

Watch the Seve Ballesteros shot that Lee Trevino called a ‘touch of class’
By: Luke Kerr-Dineen

There’s really only one thing to note here ahead of time. As great as Trevino is at golf — and he’s one of the greatest ever — he’s just as brutally honest. With that, Rice remembered a round she played with the six-time major champion and Bush. 

“And we’re playing with Lee Trevino, and I’m starstruck because I just loved Lee Trevino as a kid; I watched them on TV all the time,” Rice said at this week’s ceremony, the video of which was shared by the PGA Tour Champions. “And I don’t know if any of you have ever played with him, but he talks in his backswing, he talks in your backswing, he’s constantly talking.”

“Yeah, you do a lot of listening,” the emcee said. 

“Yes, I mean, a lot of listening,” Rice said. “And so President Bush steps into his putt, he leaves it 3 feet short or something and Lee Trevino comes over and he says, Mr. President, never in the history of golf has the hole come back to the ball. 

“And I tried to remember that from then on.”

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.