Doug Sanders, winner of 20 PGA Tour events, died at age 86. The PGA Tour confirmed that Sanders died on Sunday morning in Houston from natural causes.
Sanders was born in Georgia, the fourth of five children, and taught himself the game. The Sanders' house was close to a nine-hole golf course and he developed a swing so short that writers used to joke that he could take his club back in a phone booth. He played collegially at the University of Florida, but only for a year. Still, the Gators won the 1955 SEC championship with Sanders in the squad.
In addition to the 20 titles on the PGA Tour de Sanders, what stands out in his career is the number of times he has played in the main championships. He finished in second place four times in these events (at the 1959 PGA Championship, the 1961 US Open and the 1966 and 1970 England Open). In all, he had 13 finalists in the top 10 in majors.
The most notable and certainly the most painful was that Sanders lost the 1970 British Open to Jack Nicklaus in a playoff, after losing a 30-inch stroke by winning the 72nd hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
"I didn't do the job," said Sanders once of what was later classified as "golf's most famous fault". “I knew that the shot would go wrong immediately. I moved on. The most expensive missed shot in the history of the game. "
The foul forced a playoff the next day, which Sanders lost by a blow, shooting 73 to 72 from Nicklaus.
Sanders had one of the shortest setbacks in golf, barely past his shoulders, and an accompaniment to the game, which he developed as a young man, playing on the narrow fairways of his club in Cedartown, Georgia, to avoid losing balls, that he could barely pay.
Doug Sanders … imperceptible setback, magic stick, pastel sweaters and pants, chic boots, a cocktail or three and a joke for all occasions. He lost a device that would have defeated Nicklaus at St. Andrews. He died today at the age of 86. It's really time for the Grim Reaper to give us a break.
– Mark Whicker (@ MWhicker03LANG) April 12, 2020
Born on July 24, 1933, Sanders grew up harvesting cotton alongside his parents and walked 10 miles to work during the Great Depression.
"I started looking for golf balls," Sanders told Golfweek at Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf 2012. “All the rubber went to World War II. I earned 20 cents a day. I didn't have my own pair of shoes until I was 13. There were two lefts and two rights. Stumble me. I have 36 holes a day. "
When he was 17, Sanders shot 29 at a high school tournament and qualified for the Jaycees national tournament finals at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.
“But my family had no money. It took 10 men, who got together and gave me $ 10 a piece so I could buy my train ticket, which was $ 28.50. The first night I got there, one of the guys stole my money. Sanders went through the last three holes to win 1. He remembered being on the cover of a magazine and receiving a kiss from Miss North Carolina and a parade when he returned home.
"The first time I was in a convertible," he recalled.
The night he graduated from high school, the Florida men's golf coach offered a scholarship. He was majoring in physical education when a friend invited him to play Canadian Amateur in Toronto. He stayed at the Australian Open the following week in Montreal and was the last to tie professional Dow Finsterwald and beat him in the playoffs.
"That was my start," said Sanders, who turned professional after becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event, a feat that could not be compared for another 29 years. "I won 20 tournaments".
This included five victories in 1961. He was also a member of the winning team of the 1967 Ryder Cup in the USA.
After turning 50, he competed in 218 events at the PGA Tour Champions, including winning the 1983 World Seniors Invitational in Charlotte, North Carolina. From 1983 to 1994, he was also host to the circuit's celebrity classic Doug Sanders.
Thanks to his penchant for stylish and brightly colored golf clothes, Sanders has been dubbed the "Peacock of the Fairways". He also owned one of the largest collections of shoes – up to 359 pairs of golf shoes and dress – many dyed according to his wardrobe rainbow – of any sportsman.
Sanders never forgot his humble beginnings.
"I would never have achieved what I did if it weren't for the 10 men who helped me," said Sanders. “They say that when you die, the only thing you have with you is what you gave back. And that's what I'm trying to do is give back the game that has been so good for me. "