For Saginaw District Legends Division golf champion Gary Trumble last year’s first place win in the 72-hole Medal-play tournament was a glorious respite from the ‘Second Place Syndrome’ that ironically has followed this Class A golfer around for much of his remarkable involvement with the sport over the decades.
At the age of seventy Trumble has played in the Saginaw District Golf Tournament for nearly four decades, consistently finishing in the top rank of golfers competing in the tournament, while also consistently avoiding the Championship trophy until last year’s win in the Legends Division.
“I finished second in the Saginaw District four times and last year was my first District win,” explains Trumble. “I’ve had a lot of ‘seconds’ throughout my golfing career, but the biggest satisfaction I get out of the game is the competition.”
Gary Trumble has played golf his entire life and began cultivating his competitive edge at a very young age, getting his first taste for tournament golf in High School where he finished second in the state conference (you guessed it – two times) and also won numerous regional competitions.
After graduating from high school in 1965, the following year in 1966 presented a dramatic change-of-life. “Throughout high school I was in first place, but got drafted into the military,” he explains. Gary spent two tours in Vietnam and during one of his tours, spent five months in Thailand where he reveals a story that is illustrative of a repeating pattern in his golf career.
“This guy was talking about playing golf and I told him that I once played pretty good, so he said he would get me a set of clubs,” relates Trumble. “After somewhat of a break from the game, I went out with him to play a round and ended up beating him. So that was around the time I started getting back into the game a little bit during my tour in Thailand.”
“Eventually, this same guy started talking about this tournament that we should get in,” continues Gary, “only I didn’t have a good set of clubs, but went anyway and won it and then started meeting all these other golfers. Then in 1969 he arranged for a qualifying team of four guys to go to this major tournament in Japan, The U.S. Pacific Open, and I was one of them. We went there for a week and the tournament was three days. The military paper Stars & Stripes talked about how terrific all these great American golf teams stationed in Okinawa, Korea, Hawaii and Japan were, but never mentioned us and we were the ones that ended up winning the whole thing!” he laughs.
“Golf can be unpredictable, which is why I’ve got to get motivated to play and practice more over these next two weeks in June, so I can start trying to find a game again, because you lose it very easily. Golf is not like riding a bike – if you want to stay competitive, you have to keep at the game,” he states.
When Trumble got out of the service, he went to college in Tennessee and played golf for two years at Walter State Community College, finishing second in the state regionals. “Back then I remember scrimmaging against this guy with a very unusual name that I never forgot named Puggy Blackman. Years later I was watching the Masters Tournament; and sure enough there was Puggy Blackman playing in the Masters.”
Even though Gary managed to register so strongly as an excellent golfer at a young age, he never made the jump to the Pro level for a number of reasons. “When I was younger it was a busy time in my life and going pro requires a lot of time and a lot of money and sponsors,” he reflects. “I once thought about going pro in senior division tournaments, but with 12 grand kids, it seems I’m busy all the time.”
When asked what he feels is the biggest challenge involved with playing tournament golf, Trumble points to several factors. “There’s a huge mental component to the game and you’ve got to be able to handle the pressure,” he reflects.
“Golf is a game you never play good all the time, even in the pros; so you have to be able to weather the storm and grind things out if you’re not hitting it well. Golf is a tough game and I played a lot of sports in school, but with golf it’s all about you – there aren’t any teammates or anybody else to help you, so you have to keep focused.”
“With the Saginaw District I played in the Open Division until the age of 67 when I realized that two or three days of walking the entire course in 80-degree weather was a bit much, so decided to go into the Senior ‘Legends’ division,” he continues.
“I also remember on the last day of that tournament three years ago before my retirement from the Open Division, I shot the second lowest round and scored pretty good, so as noted earlier, I’ve always been competitive. I’ve never had to qualify in the District because I’ve always finished with the top ten each year its been held”
Given his strong showing and illustrious track-record winning regional, statewide, and even international tournaments, are there particular insights that Gary can offer into improving one’s game?
“The most important thing is to get proper instruction before you pick up bad habits,” he quickly responds. “It’s easy to pick up a lot of bad habits and if you don’t learn the right way and try to make changes, if the changes aren’t working right away its easy to go back to bad habits because it feels better; so you have to listen and learn from people.”
“The backyard of my house is on hole #10 at Kimberly Oaks and I used to go out with high school kids attending St. Charles in order to help them out,” notes Gary. “One of these students asked me to play a game with them to offer some insights; and I would show him different ways to hit the ball and how to approach different shots, but this kid loved to take chances and it was adversely affecting his game.”
“I told him that if you’re going to take that chance you better know the penalty you’re going to pay if it doesn’t pan out. This kid got burned twice in the same game from risky shots that he attempted, and if you make a triple bogey on a hole, you can’t come back – especially for a young kid, because you lose your edge mentally by getting upset. My belief is to avoid getting nervous and try to retain a more relaxed composure.”
Regarding whom he views as the toughest Saginaw District competitors over the years, Gary references such regional greats as Mike Humphreys, Danny Hughes and the Pumford Family.
“In recent years the Pumfords have dominated the District – Matt played for Michigan State; and back in the day Al was playing softball and came to ask me about playing golf,” recalls Gary. “I knew the family well growing up and helped their Dad with his game back in the day. But Roger, Justin, the entire family are solid competitors, which is quite rare.”
Having played in at least every Saginaw District tournament over several decades, what courses does Trumble feel are the most challenging in the region?”. “The Fortress in Frankenmuth was always a good one; but each course is different. With The Sawmill you have to place shots carefully on the back nine; and Apple Mountain I’ve had great rounds there, although a couple years ago I shot a 33 on the front nine and by the time I hit the back nine the storms and wind came up and I shot a 44 because I mentally lost it. The greens are tough there and usually for the District I’m guessing the greens at the Saginaw Country Club are going to be super-quick, so you have to learn to adjust. Kimberly Oaks is a tough course and nobody shoots really well there.”
“My strongest suit is consistency,” notes Gary. “In high school I didn’t drive real long but I drove straight, which is why they nicknamed me ‘Pipeline’. Some guys say I’m a ‘sneaky long-hitter’, but I’ve lost power over the years. Now that I’m 70 the club I once used a 7 iron to navigate I will now use a 6 or 5 iron, because you lose the distance as you age. I’m also a pretty good putter, although I don’t putt as well as I did when I was younger; but still last year I had several long tough putts in the District that I was able to roll close to the hole. This made all the difference.”
“I’ve had a good life playing golf and a lot of good times,” concludes Gary, ending with a reminiscence that serves as a suitable conclusion to this profile. “I remember one year when Matt Pumford said he wanted me to be his partner for the Labor Day Tournament at Maple Hill; and he said to me, ‘Just remember nobody remembers number two.’ So we go out the first day of the tournament and win, head out the second day and win again, and the third day we were tied for second and I ran a 30-foot putt to win the tournament.”
“It’s competitive moments like that and the act of overcoming the challenges that create those types of special moments that will stay with us forever.”