In the midst of miracles San Felipe 1957 golf team tells story made of legend

Golf is the one game that can never be won. There is always a better score; always something to improve upon. No one can beat golf. On the flipside, golf is a game that has a blind-justice way of leveling every field. Bad lies happen to good players, while hacks hit miraculous shots. 

Something spectacular happened more than half a century ago in Del Rio, when the San Felipe High School Mustangs magically mastered a game a bunch of kids that weren’t allowed to play in the first place. As five Latinos in the 1950’s — Joe Treviño, Felipe Romero, Mario Lomas, Gene Vasquez and Lupe Felan — selftaught a game and grew into a life-long love affair. The 1957 Mustangs laced their trophy cabinets with prestige, winning the Class A Texas state high school golf championship by a previously-unfathomable 35strokes — securing first, second and third place individual honors in synchronization.

Humble beginnings

The Mustangs golf team, made up of all Mexican-Americans, instructed themselves on the Gentleman’s game that they have been excluded from. Segregation left them on the outside-looking-in, from the other side of the San Felipe Country Club’s fence onto the cropped greens and blindingwhite sand bunkers. The boys weren’t members of the club, but rather tools for the membership. They learned the art of approach, simplifying the short game with metal cans like warriors in exile, determined to earn equality. Treviño, Romero, Lomas, Vasquez and Felan became the first members on the San Felipe golf team, in its first years, playing only for the love of the game and their dignity.

Surprise, surprise

The fivesome played golf with thunder in their fists and fire in their bellies, coming from an origin of underestimation and shocking all in their backswings. From their home course, so lovingly known as “El Llanito Country Club,” was their school grounds, where they exhibited the game it was meant to be played — with intelligence, creativity and logical approach. They were allowed to caddy the course’s members around, recommending shots, clubs, strokes and advice, but forbidden to play — except on Mondays, when the course was closed for maintenance. The players were students of the game, watching their customers in action, remembering the better strokes and learning from less than perfect ones. While walking courses and locked in competition, the fivesome served as a major minority in the almost entirely white-man’s game. They endured verbal abuse and blunt discrimination every manicured step of the way. But they still won.

Writing history

With the history deep in their pasts, the Mustang five’s story was finally told — 53 years later. Author Humberto G. Garcia saw his work, “Mustang Miracle” published in December 2010, chronicling the journey of San Felipe’s state champion sons. The book heralds acclaim, telling the story of the Mustangs with integrity and grit, passion and presence of mind — all components of their championship season. Treviño, Romero, Lomas, Vasquez and Felan, along with Garcia have been honored by the Texas House of Representatives and were inducted into the Latin American International Hall of Fame last Saturday.

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