Bruce Lietzke, the winner of 13 PGA Tours, died of brain cancer on Saturday at the age of 67. Golf Digest reports that Lietzke was diagnosed with glioblastoma in April, 2017. He underwent surgery to remove the aggressively growing golf ball-sized tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation and did his best to return to a normal life.
A year later, he was hit with vertigo so bad that he could not stand without assistance. Testing revealed tumors along the vestibular nerves in his brain, the nerves that carry balance signals from the inner ear to the brain. More chemo and radiation followed. His body did not respond well the second time, rejecting food and causing him to lose 25 pounds.
Just this past Monday he spoke about the struggles of the second round of treatment.
“It’s been a tough stretch. Nausea has been a real problem. I have lost ground from where I was. It does appear tumor cells are floating around in the brain. They are not forming and growing, but there are enough to require radiation.”
He added that doctors had told him that they needed to cease the chemo treatments because of the beating his blood was taking from it. He said he was just trying to beat the nausea and get some weight back on him.
Lietzke was famous for his fade, a skill he came upon accidentally. He started trying to hit the ball low to overcome Florida winds and said that soon it was all he was able to hit.
“I didn’t know why,” he said, “but it was working pretty well, so I decided not to fight it.”
Although he loved golf, Lietzke preferred fishing, caring for his collection of cars, and spending time playing or practicing golf. His love of muscle cars began at the age of 14 when he attended a drag race. He once told a reporter that he had “such a passion for cars. I would love to have a collection of 60 or 70. But I’m trying to be realistic and keep it around 16 or 18.”
A popular story among golfers is based on something Lietzke told his caddie, Al Hansen, at the end of the 1984 golf season. He told him to put away his clubs, that he wouldn’t need them until next season. Not believing him, Hansen slipped a banana into Lietzke’s bag where it stayed until he found it rotting in his golf bag when he retrieved it from his garage the following season.
The Golf Channel reports that Lietzke never won a major but finished second in the 1991 PGA Championship. His last win was the 2003 U.S. Senior Open. Curtis Strange played with him on a PGA tour and posted his thoughts on his friend to Twitter.
“Our friend, Bruce Lietzke, passed away this morning at his home in Dallas. Bruce fought the horrific cancer, glioblastoma with all he had. We hunted, we fished, but most importantly, we all laughed with ‘Lieky.’ He was truly one of the good guys and will be missed. Pray 4 Rose a family.”