Anthony David “Champagne Tony” Lema was a professional golfer from America. He was one of the greats of the modern era of golf. He was also a part of the “big five” consisting of Arnold Palmer, Billy Casper, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lema. He was born on February 25, 1934 and died on July 24, 1966. He was born in Oakland, California to parents who were of Portuguese ancestry. When Lema was just three years old, Lema’s father died, leaving his mother struggling to raise Lema and his three siblings.
Lema started playing golf when he was just a boy. He was coached by Lucius Bateman, a noted African-American golf coach. However, when he turned 17, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went on to serve in Korea. After being discharged by the army in 1955, he worked as an assistant of the club professional at a golf club in San Francisco.
Two years later, Lema developed his golfing skills well and he got into the PGA Tour. However, he had a struggle during his early years until 1962. By then he threw in impressive performances for the following four years. During those years, he won twelve tournaments on the PGA Tour.
The night before his first ever official victory on the PGA, Lema joked that should he win the tournament, he would serve the press some champagne. It was because of that incident that he became “Champagne Tony.” His looks and great personality formed to his being a legend. In fact, Johnny Miller said at the time of Lema’s death, that Lema was next to Arnold Palmer when it came to popularity to fans.
Lema’s career was cut short by his untimely death. However, he has already made his mark in the golfing world by winning 12 PGA Tours, one of which is a Major Championship and 4 wins in other tournaments.