1966: “Champagne” Tony Lema is tragically killed in a aircraft accident following the 1966 PGA Championship


Tony Lema dies in plane crash following ’66 PGA Championship

On this day, In 1966 Tony Lema unfortunately perished in a plane crash along with his wife and two others, he was 32 years old. Coming home from the 1966 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club in late July, Lema and his wife chartered an airplane to fly them to an exhibition tournament south of Chicago, the Little Buick Open at Lincolnshire Country Club.  Lema had just finished T-34th in the PGA Championship, Al Geiberger won with a score of even par.

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The twin-engine plane, piloted by Doris Mullen, ran out of fuel and crashed into a water hazard short of the seventh green of the nine-hole Lansing Sportsman’s Club in Lansing  about a half-mile northwest of their destination, Lansing Municipal Airport. During the fatal plunge, Mullen swerved left to avoid a group of people standing near the clubhouse. In addition to the Lemas and Mullen, a mother of four teenage children, Dr. George Bard, the co-pilot and a surgeon, was also killed. 

Lema and his wife Betty, 30, were buried in California at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward, after funeral services on July 28 at St. Elizabeth’s Church in his hometown of Oakland.

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