The man who was ranked No. 1 in the world in his sport for 270 weeks and in the top 10 for 13 consecutive years will compete in the Greater Bangor Open next week.
Tennis legend Ivan Lendl will be playing in the Greater Bangor Open July 25-27 at Bangor Municipal Golf Club as he pursues the sport he embraced since he was forced to retire from professional tennis in December 1994.
The 36-year-old tennis great, who won $20 million in prize money during his 17-year pro career, announced his retirement from tennis because of crippling back spasms caused by facet joint syndrome. Almost immediately, Lendl turned to golf.
Lendl, who played tennis righthanded but plays golf lefthanded, started to play golf as a pro in 1995. He competes in the North Atlantic tour.
Since he retired from tennis, Lendl moved from Greenwich, Conn., to Goshen, Conn., the town where his golf club, Torrington Country Club, is located.
Since then, Lendl has built three holes at his house, had putting greens put in and become a regular at Torrington Country Club.
The head golf pro at Torrington, Tom Lavinio, said Lendl’s passion and drive for the game is evident and, over the past two years, has intensified.
“He’s working very hard at it,” Lavinio said. “He’s got his club in his hand every day. When he’s not playing at his house, he’s here. I see it. He works on it rain or shine. It’s nothing for him to come up and bang balls here on the range in the mist and fog.”
When Lendl retired from tennis in 1994, he said he had intended to play tennis a few more seasons simply for the joy of competing. But the back ailment, which cannot be corrected by surgery, forced Lendl’s retirement to be absolute.
“I was a disaster,” Lendl said in December 1994. “It’s the running and pounding on hardcourts that bring the spasms on, and once they start, they just keep on coming, not in one spot, but all over the middle of my back.”
However, Lendl, who could not be reached for comment, gave some insight into his competitiveness and passion for golf when he retired from tennis.
“I don’t think I’m going to lie down and not compete at anything,” Lendl said in 1994. “Last summer, I played golf at the championship at one of the clubs out here and the same intensity was there. I was even nervous about it, which kind of came as a surprise.”
Lavinio doesn’t know what Lendl’s aspirations in golf are, except that Lendl is clearly intent on making headway quickly.
“He’s got a great desire, without a doubt,” Lavinio said. “I’ve seen massive improvement. He’s a lot more consistent in his game. There are a lot of levels to golf. There’s good and then there’s good. He is striving to be better than good. He’ll get there, it’ll just take some time.”
In the last two years since Lendl turned pro, his game has improved. Lavinio said Lendl shot mid-to-high 70s last year and is consistently shooting mid-to-low 70s this year. Lendl recently qualified for the Connecticut Open, shooting a 73 to make the cut at 75.
“I know he wants to be a professional. This is a humbling game. But he’s going about it the right way. Some people drive all day. He putts and chips. And he’s got all the equipment and technology. He’ll start shooting a lot of sub-par rounds. It’ll just take a little while,” Lavino said.