Anthony "Tony" David Lema (February 25, 1934 – July 24, 1966) was a professional golfer from Oakland. He got the nickname "Champagne Tony" after he bought champagne for the entire press corps following his first PGA tournament win. 1 Lema died in a plane crash at age 32, just as his career was on the rise.
Tony was born February 25, 1934, to parents of Portuguese descent, Atone Harry Lema and Clotilda Silva (Lema), who had been married by Rev. Galli at St. Joseph's Portuguese Church. His father died of pneumonia when Tony was 3, leaving Tony's mother to raise four children. The 1940 census lists Clotilda Lema (30), Bernice (11), Harry (9), Walter (8), and Tony (6) living at 2201 - 92nd Avenue.
He began playing golf at Lake Chabot municipal golf course and working as a caddy. He learned his skills from a variety of people: Lucius Bateman, who worked at a driving range in Alameda, helped develop Lema's swing. Ralph Hall, an Oakland police officer, taught him course strategy. Dick Fry and Bill Burch, the pros at Lake Chabot, taught him the square stance that made his game so consistent. 1
"Lema's Lesson by Champagne Tony" was a regular panel in the Oakland Tribune sports section, featuring tips on golfing. 3
On July 24, 1966, Lema, was flying on a chartered plane to a tournament in Illinois. The plane crashed (ironically, on a golf course), and Lema, his wife Betty Cline (Lema), the pilot, Doris Mullen, and co-pilot, Dr. George Bard, were all killed. 5 The funeral was held at St. Elizabeth Church. Tony had attended St. Elizabeth High School.
Links and References
- Champagne Tony Has A Winning Look Sports Illustrated March 25, 1963
- Bubbling Lema Banks $20,000 Oakland Tribune June 8, 1964 (p2)
- Lema's Lesson Oakland Tribune June 29, 1966
- His Champagne Never Lost Its Bubble Oakland Tribune July 26, 1966
- Engines on Airplane Quit, Witness Says Tampa Tribune July 26, 1966 (p2)