Tom Lehman has won a major, earned PGA Tour Player of the Year honors and been ranked No. 1 in the world.
But he calls being a part of the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup team’s historic comeback to defeat Europe at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., the greatest week of his golf life.
Lehman will be back in Boston the Monday after The Masters to receive the Francis Ouimet Award for Lifelong Contributions to Golf. He will be the 19th recipient of an honor presented by the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which provides college scholarships to students who work at Massachusetts golf courses.
Lehman will join a who’s who list of past recipients, including Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Nancy Lopez, Annika Sörenstam and Ben Crenshaw, Lehman’s captain on that 1999 Ryder Cup squad.
“It’s a humbling award, because I see the list of recipients,” Lehman said during a Monday teleconference with reporters. “I’m nowhere near achieving what they have achieved. But at the end of the day, the organization is about people, and about giving and about service, and that’s what makes it important.”
Lehman, 57, remains a PGA Tour Champions regular, winning nine times on the senior circuit on top of his five PGA Tour titles, which include the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. In addition to playing on three Ryder Cup teams, he captained the 2006 U.S. squad and will serve as a vice captain to Davis Love III during this September’s matches at Hazeltine National in Lehman’s native Minnesota.
With a victory against Lee Westwood in the leadoff singles match in ’99, Lehman helped spark the Americans’ comeback for the ages. As the United States seeks to reverse its recent Ryder Cup fortunes, having lost six of the seven matches contested since Brookline, Lehman would like to help foster a winning mentality in this year’s squad, which figures to include young guns Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed and veterans Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson.
“You have to love it,” he said. “You have to really enjoy it. And there’s nerves, yes, and there’s pressure, yes, but at the end of the day you have to love what you’re doing more than anything else. And I think that’s always been what’s made the Europeans so strong. They have a bunch of guys who always loved the battle.
“What you have to do is go out and play your hardest, and enjoy the battle. I think if we do that, we’ll be really, really good.”