Anthony David Lema (February 25, 1934 – July 24, 1966) was an American professional golfer who rose to fame in the mid-1960s and won a major title, the 1964 Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland. He lost his life two years later at age 32 in an aircraft accident near Chicago.
Born in Oakland, California, Lema’s father died of pneumonia when Tony was two years old, and his widowed mother struggled to raise the family of four children. Tony began playing golf as a boy at Lake Chabot municipal golf course and learned different aspects of the game from a variety of people. Noted African-American golf coach Lucius Bateman helped develop his swing and Oakland policeman Ralph Hall taught him course strategy. The golf pros at Lake Chabot, Dick Fry and Bill Burch, trained him on basic golf fundamentals, including the use of a square stance.
Ryan Lema, the nephew of Tony noted the role models he found in Catholic Church and school, “had the biggest impact on his not going the wrong way with his life. He had a great affinity for the nuns and priests who gave him second and third chances.”
The legacy of Tony Lema, the St Elizabeth graduate whose charisma helped attract viewers to the game on television also lives on at our annual golf tournament that will benefit the students at Cristo Rey De La Salle East Bay High School St. Elizabeth High School Scholarship.