Dennis Trixler and Tom Lehman were attempting to establish themselves as worthy members of the PGA Tour in the mid-’80s. When trying to work their way up from the tour’s lower division, golfers find themselves together on the driving range and in discount hotels.
“Dennis and I got along from the start, but I’d say we became friends when we mentioned another player that nobody seemed to like,” Lehman said. “Dennis went off about the guy — ‘He’s a two-faced, no-good so-and-so,’ and a few more nasty things.
“Then, Dennis stopped, smiled and said, ‘Hey, that sounds like me.’
“Right then, I decided that anybody that honest … I wanted him as a friend.”
Trixler played a total of 19 tournaments on the PGA Tour from 1980 to 1984. Then, he earned regular status in 1985 and 1986, playing in 30 tournaments each year, and in 17 more in 1987.
Trixler’s most promising season was 1986, when he had top-10 finishes in Los Angeles and Tallahassee.
That was the same year that Lehman lost his playing privileges after three unsuccessful seasons (1983-85) on the tour.
Three decades later, Lehman is 56 and in the senior portion of an outstanding career, and Trixler is working as his caddie. They were teamed up Friday for the opening round of the 3M Championship and, in windy, tougher-than-usual conditions, Lehman shot a 64 for a three-stroke lead.
The sight of Trixler, moving along with a rubber sleeve on his right knee, had to be quite a surprise for fans who have followed Lehman as a favorite son of Minnesota golf.
For 23 years, if you saw Lehman on the tee box for a competitive round of golf, there was 95 percent chance that Andrew Martinez would be standing nearby.
“Andrew came to me earlier this spring and said he had chance to work for Zac Blair on the regular tour,” Lehman said. “Zac’s a talented young guy who could use help from a veteran caddie and tremendous person like Andrew.
“It was a loss for me, but it was the right thing to do for Andrew. He wanted the challenge. Plus, with the money they are paying on the PGA Tour now, I told him he should go for it.”
Blair received some attention a couple of months ago as the playing partner when Tiger Woods shot an 85 at the Memorial.
Blair has four top-20s, missed the cut in Tiger’s event this weekend and has $831,916 in official earnings. Lehman has five top-10s and has made $657,638 on the Champions Tour — and he’s in the lead with 36 holes left at the TPC Twin Cities.
Trixler had caddied for Lehman a few times through the years. When Lehman needed help for the remainder of the 2015 season, he called Trixler and asked, “How are you feeling?”
There was a confession to be made: Trixler was a few months removed from surgery on his left shoulder.
“I wasn’t feeling the best, but I was good enough to go to work,” Trixler said. “I’m not going to China [in September] for that event … outside of that, I’m with him for the rest of the year. I’m having a great time; I played with all these guys.
“What I missed most is the competition. And when you’re a caddie, you’re competing.”
Trixler had a reputation for missing curfew on occasion when he was a player. Lehman is an out-front Christian and straight arrow. Martinez was the same.
Where are Dennis and Andrew on the personality meter? “Like this,” said Lehman, holding his hands 4 feet apart.
Holly Lehman, one of Tom’s four children, smiled and said: “Andrew was talkative, too … just not quite as much of a character as Dennis.”
Trixler does have this advantage over Martinez: He’s an outstanding cook.
“That’s understating it,” Lehman said. “Through the years, my family has had many meals made by Dennis and only one that wasn’t great.”
Holly nodded and said: “The brisket.”
Trixler shook his head and said: “That wasn’t all my fault. It was the cut of meat. Too much fat.”
Lehman no longer has a swing coach. “One advantage for Tom is that I’m a player,” Trixler said. “I can help him if he needs it.”
This conversation took place before Friday’s round. “Tom’s hitting the ball great, as always, but he’s putting, too,” Trixler said. “He’s ready to play well for the home folks.”
Sixty-four, in a strong wind.
Remember, Dennis Trixler is a player, and he knows golf.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org