Grant Lucas

Only four left-handed players have ever won one of the four major championships of men’s professional golf.

The first was New Zealand’s Bob Charles, who won the British Open in 1963. Forty years later, Canadian Mike Weir became the second lefty to win a major when he won the 2003 Masters. Phil Mickelson — golf’s best-known “Lefty” — won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010, the PGA Championship in 2005, and the British Open in 2013.

Bubba Watson, an American like Mickelson, rounds out the foursome with Masters wins in 2012 and 2014.

No left-hander has ever won a major championship in women’s golf. In fact, according to LPGA.com, Bonnie Bryant is the only lefty ever to win an LPGA Tour event: the Bill Branch LPGA Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, in 1974.

—Bulletin staff report

REDMOND —

T.J. Cecil has heard every joke and tease imaginable. One always stands out.

The 2016 Bend High grad will be on the driving range, for example, readying himself for a round of golf. A left-hander, Cecil will overhear a ribbing from behind him.

“You know,” a bystander will say, “you’re standing on the wrong side of the ball.”

But here’s the thing, as Cecil and every lefty will tell you: Literally and figuratively, he is standing on the RIGHT side.

“I take pride in being a lefty,” said Cecil, an assistant pro at Pronghorn Club in Bend who is working through the PGA apprentice program. “A large part of that is my game. My handicap is down to a 1.4. So for me, at least, I’m good enough at the game that I can keep up and sometimes beat these righties. It’s nice being able to compete with all the right-handers and beat them and be a lefty. They’ll say some stupid remark about standing on the wrong side of the ball, I’ll beat them, and I’ll be like, ‘You just lost to a guy standing on the wrong side of the ball.’”

Cecil is not alone.

In fact, on Monday and Tuesday, maybe a dozen players — all lefties — convened at Juniper Golf Course for the Oregon Left-Handed Golfers Association Annual Tournament, which was renamed the David Foote Memorial Tournament in honor of the former tournament organizer and community leader who died unexpectedly in June.

Those “wrong-side” hitters were there to celebrate the rare breed that is the left-handed golfer.

“We have a world and a national association, and most states have a left-handed golf tournament,” said John Hodecker, this year’s de facto tournament director. “I’ve probably been to 20 national tournaments and 17 world tournaments. But they’re having the same problem. Everybody’s having the same problem.” Left-handed golfers, he aded, are getting old. “And no new (lefties) are coming to take their place.”

Take the David Foote Memorial Tournament, for example. The event has been held for nearly 30 years, Hodecker estimated. The field used to consist of 30 players.

This week, only a handful teed off.

“Lefties make up about 10 percent of the world’s population, but the golf percentage is considerably less,” said Juniper head pro James Billings. “Golf courses are set up for right-handed players — cart path orientation, tee box slopes, shape of the course, slope of the greens — so to be able to give some spotlight to the guys who have fought that trend and continued to play left-handed rather than conform is commendable.”

Some estimates suggest only one in 30 golfers is left-handed — a point of pride for lefties, but also a saddening sign.

“It makes it a little special, I guess,” Cecil said. “It makes sense. It’s sort of a bummer, almost, not having as many lefties being golfers because so many times I’ll be out playing in a group with three righties and one of them bought a new driver and … as a lefty, you don’t really get to try out new clubs. … If there were more lefty golfers, it would make (that process, because of the higher demand for specialty clubs) easier.”

“As someone who is left-handed myself, but plays right-handed,” said Billings, “I think it’s great that these guys have been able to excel at a game where it’s incredibly hard to find (left-handed) equipment … and many golf courses were built for a gentle (right-hand) fade, forcing lefties to hook the ball when equipment wasn’t made to do that.”

Cecil said that before he discovered the Juniper event, he had never heard of a tournament specifically for left-handed players. In a way, the tourney also opened his eyes to discover other players within his species.

“There’s not a lot of us lefties out here,” he said, “so it’s an interesting thing to see how we match up against each other.”

There is a brotherhood among lefties, a united effort to celebrate the oddity — spotlight the need for increased participation — of left-handers.

“Oh, yeah,” Hodecker said of lefties maintaining a close bond. “I mean, we had a party Sunday night and a banquet Monday night. We just had a big gathering, those that wanted to gather, that is.”

The party should not end for lefties. It should continue. And Hodecker and Billings are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

“Whether I can live long enough to put another one on next year and give it another go, I hope that I can get a better start at it this year,” Hodecker said. “We’ll see what happens.”

“I am proud to host this event for John every year,” Billings added, “and I look forward to continuing to be a part of it.”

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