Chi Chi Rodriguez was one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour and then on the Champions Tour, famous as an entertainer and shotmaker. And he also had his share of wins.
Date of birth: Oct. 23, 1935
Place of birth: Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
Nickname: "Chi Chi" is his nickname. Rodriguez's given name is Juan. He was nicknamed "Chi Chi" as a child after a Puerto Rican baseball player, Chi Chi Flores.
PGA Tour: 8
Champions Tour: 22
Awards and Honors:
• Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
• Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1973
• Recipient, USGA Bob Jones Award, 1989
• Member, World Humanitarian Sports Hall of Fame
Chi Chi Rodriguez: "Sure, I'm making a lot of money now, but years ago the IRS would send me get-well cards."
Chi Chi Rodriguez: "I've heard people say putting is 50 percent technique and 50 percent mental. I really believe it is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking. See, but that adds up to 140 percent, which is why nobody is 100 percent sure how to putt."
Chi Chi Rodriguez: "I never exaggerate. I just remember big."
• Rodriguez won four straight times on the Champions Tour in 1987, that tour's record for most consecutive wins.
• That same year, in one tournament, he made eight straight birdies - also the Champions Tour record (since tied).
Chi Chi Rodriguez Biography:
One of the smallest golfers in stature at just 5-foot-7 and never more than 130 pounds, Chi Chi Rodriguez became one of the game's biggest stars through his showmanship and shotmaking.
Rodriguez grew up very poor in Puerto Rico. He carved his first golf club from a tree branch and struck "balls" made of rolled-up tin cans, or just plain ol' rocks.
Chi Chi was an excellent boxer and baseball player as a youth, but turned to golf as his game of choice. He began caddying at age 8 and sneaking onto the course after-hours to practice. Rodriguez has said he imagined a life in golf from his earliest times playing: "Every golf shot I hit I thought about how much I wanted to eat."
By age 16, Rodriguez was setting course records, and at 17 he finished second in the Puerto Rico Open. Following a 2-year stint in the U.S. Army, Rodriguez began working at Dorado Beach Resort and came under the tutelage of former touring pro Pete Cooper. Cooper mentored Chi Chi's game, and then, with financial backing from resort investor Laurence Rockefeller, Rodriguez began playing the PGA Tour in 1960.
And he quickly became a fan favorite with his great ballstriking and imaginative shot-shaping, but largely because of his showmanship. Rodriguez debuted his famous "sword dance," waving his putter like a sword after making a birdie, and he also would drop his straw hat over the hole (to keep the ball from "escaping"). Fans loved it, but some tour pros didn't. Years later Hale Irwin talked about how Rodriguez "spiked up a lot of greens" with the "sword dance," and Chi Chi eventually stopped placing his hat over the hole. The sword dance remained throughout his career, however.
Rodriguez was a successful player on the PGA Tour, winning for the first time at the 1963 Denver Open and the last at the 1979 Tallahassee Open. His fame really exploded on the Champions Tour, however. He was one of the most successful players in the 1980s, winning 22 times total including a pair of senior majors (the 1986 Senior Players and 1987 Senior PGA Championship).
Rodriguez was a very long driver for his size, an accurate irons player and a creative shotmaker, but his big weakness was putting.
His last win on the Champions Tour was in 1993.
Rodriguez is also noted for his dedication to children's charities, and the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation is devoted to helping disadvantaged kids. Rodriguez was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.