Sports Outside the Beltway

Royal Birkdale and Taiwanese golfers or Yani Tseng and Mr. Lu

Yani Tseng from Taiwan leads the Women’s British at Royal Birkdale by four shots with 36 holes to play. Should she win, Tseng would already have amassed three of the four major championships in Women’s professional golf.Yani Tseng

I won’t be conceding the tournament to Tseng quite. Just two years ago, Lorena Ochoa was on a roll and was leading the LPGA Championship by one shot after 36 holes. One golf scribe at the time was all but ready to crown Ochoa at that point. Ochoa ultimately finished third, to Yani Tseng.

Royal Birkdale is an interesting place for Tseng to be going for her third major. Thirty-nine years ago, or 1971 to be precise, the Open Championship was played at Birkdale. It was won by Lee Trevino. The golfer who finished second by one shot that week was Lu Liang Huan. Lu, who is still alive today at age 75, is from Taiwan just like Yani Tseng.

Lu, or as Open Championship fans in 1971 nicknamed him Mr. Lu, was an obscure golfer to even knowledgeable golf people at the time. His three career wins were all in Asia before the 1971 Open Championship.

Mr. Lu’s obscurity didn’t prevent him from being a fan favorite that week in 1971. He didn’t speak much English, but through tips of his straw cap and smiles to the gallery, he had many people in England and through television cheering for him that week.

A week after the 1971 Open Championship, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club issued an invitation to Mr. Lu. It said- “come back to this country as often as you like and we hope you’ll bring more fine golfers from the Far East.”

Many fine golfers have come to the United Kingdom and the United States since then. Unfortunately, the attitude of people has regressed since then. Asian golfers, even Asian American golfers, are seen as a threat by the media and or fans. No one was bothered by Mr. Lu’s poor English in 1971, so I have trouble understanding the attitude of some people today. Trevino and Mr. Lu

I wasn’t following pro golf in 1971. At the time I was ten-years-old and more interested in New York Mets baseball. What I learned about the 1971 Open Championship is through media accounts at the time. Even these are hard to find.

What I do know about that Open Championship is-

1 Trevino and Mr. Lu were paired together for the last 18 holes.
2 Lee Trevino made double bogey at 17
3 Mr. Lu and Trevino both made closing birdies on 18
4 As he played 18, an errant golf shot of Mr. Lu’s struck a person in the gallery injuring the woman. After the Open Championship, Mr. Lu paid for the woman and her husband to visit Taiwan.

Mr. Lu never again seriously contended for a Major Championship. He did however win the French Open the following week and in 1972 partnered with Hsieh Min-Nan to win the World Cup. When his professional career was over, Mr. Lu had at least twenty professional wins to his credit but he is probably still best remembered for his runner-up finish at the 1971 Open Championship.

So far as I know, Mr. Lu is still alive today at age seventy-four.

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