(Reuters) - Texan Bruce Lietzke, a prolific winner on the PGA Tour despite rarely practising, died on Saturday at the age of 67, PGA Tour reported.
He died in his home outside of Dallas after having battled an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma, the tour said.
“Our PGA Tour family lost a treasured member with the death of Bruce Lietzke,” Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
“He touched on parts of five decades as a player, competed in 700 tournaments as a member of the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions.”
Hall of Fame golfer and friend Curtis Strange praised Lietzke for the life he led on and off the course.
“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,” Strange said on his Twitter account.
Lietzke had been diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017 and Bill Rogers, the 1981 British Open champion and Lietzke’s college roommate; Jerry Pate, Lietzke’s brother-in-law; and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw accompanied Lietzke for some early hospital appointments more than a year ago, PGA Tour reported.
“He did it the way he wanted to do it,” Rogers said of Lietzke’s lifestyle, “and in truth, he lived out his dream.”
The consistent Lietzke made a reputation for a reliable swing that invariably generated a big fade and rarely ended in the rough.
It was a swing that earned him 13 PGA Tour titles between 1977 and 1994.
Lietzke was renowned for his sparse competitive schedule, never playing more than 20 tournaments in a single season after 1988.
Placing his family before his career, he regularly took a long summer break, one of the reasons he never won a major championship.
He played the British Open only three times, and did not play the U.S. Open after 1985, upon becoming a father.
Lietzke’s best major result was a runner-up finish to then-little known long hitter John Daly at the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana.
He was renowned for rarely practising, though some did not necessarily believe him.
In one famous story, he told his caddie at the end of the 1984 season to remove everything from his golf bag except his clubs, because he planned to put them away in his garage until he resumed his schedule the following year.
The caddie stuck a banana in the bag to test whether Lietzke was telling the truth.
Several months later, Lietzke finally opened his bag at his first tournament of the season to an overwhelming stench, his caddie no longer a disbeliever.
“The banana was just nasty, all black and covered in fungus,” Lietzke recalled years later.
Lietzke is survived by his wife Rosemarie and two children.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina. Additional reporting by Gene Cherry, editing by Pritha Sarkar