It's been 43 years since the PGA Championship was in North Carolina. Lee Trevino remembers it well.
He doesn't recall each hole, per se. But he remembers the sparse grass on the greens at Tanglewood Park, then known as Tanglewood West Course. He remembers the August heat in Clemmons, and he remembers 62-year-old Sam Snead tying for third, three strokes behind him.
And, of course, he remembers holding off Jack Nicklaus, then golf’s biggest star, by a stroke to win the 1974 PGA Championship.
“You did not want a steady diet of Jack Nicklaus, let me tell you that,” Trevino said of Nicklaus, golf’s all-time majors champion with 18 titles. “Jack Nicklaus would chew you up and spit you out.”
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Trevino had beaten Nicklaus in the 1968 U.S. Open for his first win on the PGA Tour. He edged Nicklaus again three years later in 1971 U.S. Open. So when Trevino entered the final day of the 56th PGA Championship in Clemmons leading Nicklaus by a stroke, it seemed they were destined for another clash.
Sure enough, they were. Nicklaus bogeyed two holes and birdied three in the final round to finish under par. Trevino birdied the first hole and went 2 under on the ninth, but he bogeyed the 17th to remain one stroke ahead of Nicklaus heading to the final hole.
But Trevino parred 18 to capture his first PGA Championship and the fifth of his six majors.
“It's like a footrace -- we're just trying to shoot as low as possible,” Trevino said. “And I was lucky enough to beat him a couple of times.”
Nearly five decades later, the PGA Championship is returning to North Carolina Aug. 10-13 at Quail Hollow Club. It's the sixth time the state will host a major golf championship and the first time in Charlotte.
“If there's any state in the Union that deserves a major championship every five years, it's North Carolina,” said Trevino, 77, who also won Champions Tour events at Tanglewood in 1993and at Piper Glen in Charlotte in 1994.
“I don't think there's any more golf courses and people that play this great game of golf than in North Carolina.”
The PGA made a similar claim on its website Wednesday, listing the reasons North Carolina is such a great state for golf. But the PGA Championship calendar hasn't reflected the sentiment.
Before 1974, the PGA Championship's only stop in North Carolina was in 1936, when Denny Shute won at Pinehurst Resort. But Trevino said the decades-long layoffs between hosting isn't an indictment on the passion for golf in the region. If anything, it's a product of it.
Trevino said he encountered massive crowds throughout his playing career in North Carolina, and he expects the same at Quail Hollow , where the PGA Championship is sold out. More than 200,000 fans are expected, tournament officials say.
Unlike much of his playing career, Trevino said, focusing on infrastructure -- from bleachers to corporate boxes to merchandise tents -- determines whether a golf course is fit to host a major.
“It's not like it used to be where you had a golf tournament, you had a parking lot, you let people in and you charged them at the gate,” Trevino said.
Jordan Spieth, who won last week's British Open, comes to Charlotte with a chance to complete the career slam -- winning each of the four major championships. He would be the sixth player, joining Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
Will the weight of winning a major hurt the 24-year-old in his next outing? Trevino doesn't think so.
“The second one is much easier,” Trevino said. “Not as much pressure. Nobody's expecting you to win it.”
Trevino should know. In 1971, he won the U.S. Open before winning the British Open less than a month later, with his second narrow win over Nicklaus in three years. Three years later in Clemmons, he beat him again.
This year, Trevino, who lives in Dallas, said he will watch to see how the PGA Championship fares in its return to North Carolina. He said he suspects the United States Golf Association will be watching, too, to see if the major proves profitable at Quail Hollow.
And he knows the region's passionate fans will be watching, just as they did 43 years ago.
“I think the local fans that support this game deserve it,” Trevino said of the PGA Championship returning to North Carolina. “I really do.”
Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.
C Jackson Cowart on Twitter: @CJacksonCowart