The legacy of Abilene’s Mario Lomas Sr. & the ‘Mustang Miracle’ golf team

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As a family and an entire community continues to mourn the loss of Abilene man, Mario Lomas Senior, we talk with those closest to him to learn the true impact that Lomas had not only in the city, but in the state, in sports as a whole, and in overcoming adversity.

In the 1950s, a group of Mexican-American students at San Felipe High, a segregated school in Del Rio found themselves with a passion for golf but large barriers keeping them from the green. Those six young men would caddy at the local course, but because of the discriminatory laws of the time they were not welcome to play there.

Abilene man whose triumph as Mexican-American golfer inspired book, film passes away at 84

One of those young men would later call Abilene his home. Mario Lomas Sr., a man known by his family to play purely for the love of the game, passed away Thursday, April 18 at the age of 84.

<em>(From Left to right) Coach J.B. Peña, Joe Treviño, Mario Lomas Sr., Gene Vasquez, Felipe Romero, Lupe Felan, Unnamed man in photo</em>
(From Left to right) Coach J.B. Peña, Joe Treviño, Mario Lomas Sr., Gene Vasquez, Felipe Romero, Lupe Felan, Unnamed man in photo

“He- He loved the game… He was still playing before we put him in a nursing home here in Abilene,” said Lomas’ son, Mark.

Determined to play the sport they loved, the group did what was necessary to progress, building their own golf course in town, practicing mainly on dirt. Lomas’ nephew Jake Lomas told KTAB/KRBC his uncle and the team turned that humble beginning into a legacy that is still celebrated today.

<em>Lomas Sr. with family</em>
Lomas Sr. with family

“It was back in the 50s, you know, it was just a tough thing if you were a minority… Their talents and skills, just, it spoke for itself, you know? I mean you can’t stop a ‘Jordan,’ y’know? you can try to, but you can’t. These guys had it, you know, they really had it,” Jake emphasized

In 1957, that team won the state high school title in golf, a first for an all Mexican-American team. Their final victory won on the very Del Rio course that had shut them out early on.

“He said, to win it there where he wasn’t able to play was very satisfying,” said Jake.

Lomas would go on to work at courses all across the country as a course pro or any other position that would keep him close to the course. He also caddied throughout the years for a number of pros on the PGA tour.

In 2012, the team was inducted into the Latin American International Sports Hall of Fame, and every year a celebratory golf tournament and parade are held in their honor in Del Rio.

“They were humble people,” Jake shared, “they didn’t have much. It was kinda neat how God blessed them.”

<em>1957 team at 2012 Latin American International Sports Hall of fame induction</em>
1957 team at 2012 Latin American International Sports Hall of fame induction

Their story was the subject of the 2010 book Mustang Miracle by Humberto G. Garcia. Movie talks had been in the works since 2014, and on April 7, 2024 that film was released under the title The Long Game.

“He started talking about this movie 10, 12 years ago… It’s just sad he didn’t get to see it,” lamented Jake.

Lomas’ family told KTAB/KRBC his mental and physical state had been declining later in life, which had kept him from the green as well as the premiere of the film he helped inspire before passing away at the age of 84 last Thursday. Although, nephew Jake said couldn’t keep him from the people he held dear.

“[The members of his team] were good men. I was blessed to play a tournament with them in place of my uncle because he couldn’t walk anymore… Man I was very nervous because these old cats could still play,” Jake commented.

Despite the nerves, Jake said that game in 2015 was a transformative experience which showed him exactly why his uncle was the man he knew him to be.

Jake Lomas & Mario Lomas Sr. and team at 2015 tournament game

“You could see their character. It was uplifting, it really was… I came away that day a different guy, a different man,” said Jake. In a word of advice, he continued, “What you love to do, do it to the nines. Enjoy life. Live through it, you know? And that’s what he taught me.”

Jake and the rest of Lomas’ family seem to follow that advice to a tee. Enjoying life and playing through, their lives made that much sweeter to know that the fairway is a little greener in that back nine up on high.

“I gotta believe in God’s promises that I’ll see him again, and we’ll have that perfect round of 18 under,” Jake added.

Funeral service arrangements are still pending at the moment, per North’s Funeral Home. The Long Game is showing at theatres nationwide including the Mall of Abilene.

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