Big-name celebrity endorsements had always been common in video games. They didn't even have to make a whole lot of sense. Seriously, despite his name in the title and his face on the cover, I dare anyone to point out Chuck Norris in Chuck Norris Superkicks. However, sports games, more than any other genre, were ripe for celebrity endorsement, whether talking John Madden or Larry Bird. A decade before Tiger Woods became the face of golf video games, there was Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf.
For those who don't know, Lee Trevino is an icon for Latino golfers. Born in Dallas, he was learning the game as a kid, caddying as a teenager, playing during his time in the Marine Corps, and went pro in 1960 with his first trip to the U.S. Open in 1966. He made Rookie of the Year in 1967, and, by the time he retired in 2000, he was one of only four people to win the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship twice. There's definitely plenty of reason to let him endorse a golf game... and have a few great cameos in Happy Gilmore.
Fortunately, unlike Michael Jordan's Chaos in the Windy City, Lee Trevino actually got his name stamped on a good game. Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf's visuals are decent. The screen may be a bit cluttered with all the information the game is giving you at once, and the visuals are a noticeable step down from the arcade. However, the scenery is still quite eye-pleasing, and I definitely like how, after driving a shot, the view shift to the ball's projected landing area. There are even a few cute animations when you nail a great drive or flub up a putt. The overhead view for the green even shows the slopes. While not the best the NES could do, the visuals do hold up.
The mechanics are sound. The overhead map on the left allows you to aim your shots reliably, and the swing uses the three-click method that would become the de facto interface for games like Mario Golf later on. The meters may run a little fast, but I still had little trouble pulling off the shots I wanted. This is a very well-playing golf game.
Unfortunately, the game has a couple of sizable issues. One is that the AI has problems. When playing Nassau Mode solo, a CPU opponent is added. The computer takes too long on each shot to decide what to do. There were points in which I was waiting for twenty seconds for the opponent to shoot. That may not seem like much, but that adds up when you factor it for every shot for 18 holes. Also the computer is wildly inconsistent. One hole, the CPU could send three shots in a row into the nearest lake; the next, the CPU could be scoring a nearly impossible hole-in-one during gusty conditions. This is definitely a game better played with friends.
However, the fun would be short-lived as the options are anemic. There are only two game modes, two courses, and four characters in the whole game (Lee Trevino goes by his nickname “SuperMex” in the game). It wouldn't take long to see everything.
It may be tempting to dismiss Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf just because of the stupid name (seriously, where's the fighting here?). However, the game is very good while it lasts and is a worthwhile entry for any golf fan. The Merry Mex scored a birdie here.