Wednesday, July 18

Open Flashback: The Remarkable ‘Mr. Lu’

Mr. Lu at Royal Birkdale in 1971.
LAST NIGHT I WATCHED AN ESPN PROGRAM called “The Nearly Men,” a one-hour film about players who came agonizingly close to winning The Open Championship. One charming character I scarcely remembered was Lu-Liang Huan, a Taiwanese player affectionately called “Mr. Lu” who dueled Lee Trevino all the way to the 72nd hole at Royal Birkdale in 1971.

Mr. Lu had plenty of game and made quite a splash in ‘71 on golf’s foremost international stage. He was the first winner of the Hong Kong Open in 1959, and went on to titles in the 1965 Philippine Open and the 1966 Taiwan Open. Paired with Trevino on the final day at Royal Birkdale 41 years ago, Mr. Lu sported a melon-colored collarless shirt and a bright blue porkpie hat.

(One writer described it as a “silly little hat” that the British called a “trilby,” but I expect that Marty Hackel, Golf Digest’s “Mr. Style,” would approve of Mr. Lu’s choice of headwear.)

One shot behind Trevino at the last hole, Mr. Lu badly hooked his second shot on the par-5 and struck Lillian Tipping squarely on the head. His golf ball bounced back into the fairway as Mrs. Tipping fell to the ground. It was a terrific break at a crucial moment, but it upset the golfer.

“I’ll never forget that women,” Mr. Lu said in 2008. “I was so sorry when I hit her. I hit her so hard.”

Shaken but still conscious, Mrs. Tipping had a message for the golfer: “Mr. Lu, get another birdie for me.”

He did.

But so did Trevino to claim victory by a single stroke.

Lee Trevino won the Claret Jug for the first time. Mr. Lu, carried from the final green on the shoulders of two men, won the admiration of British golf fans. The following week at Biarritz, he also won the French Open. One of his new fans, Mrs. Tipping, had sent him cables every day wishing him well.

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Brian Kuehn said...

I nice anecdote (I hope I spelled that correctly). Stories like that are why I tune in daily. Thanks.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Thanks, Brian.