Doug Sanders was famous as a flashy dresser, and he was a frequent winner on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and 1970s. But he's most famous for the one that got away.
Date of birth: July 24, 1933
Place of birth: Cedartown, Georgia
Nickname: "Peacock of the Fairways," for his flashy, colorful attire.
PGA Tour: 20
Champions Tour: 1
Awards and Honors:
• Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1967
• Member, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
Chi Chi Rodriguez: "Doug Sanders was the best money player I ever saw. A great player. ... He was a better golfer playing with his money than playing with other people's money."
Doug Sanders: "I'm as rich as any man or woman in the world because I weigh and measure my wealth by friends, and golf has given me that opportunity."
Doug Sanders: "I went to great lengths to blend the colors of my clothes just right. ... Oh, my clothes were beautiful. Still are."
Doug Sanders: "Winners listen to other people. They're always trying to learn; they respect other people's opinions. Losers just want to talk."
Sanders suffered from a condition called torticollis - "a neck condition where my head tilted one way and my chin went the other" - that caused intense pain. He was scheduled for an operation, but the doctor told him the operation wasn't guaranteed to rid him of the pain.
Sanders told Golf Digest in a 2003 interview that he met with a professional hitman and agreed to pay $40,000 for the hitman to kill him if the operation was not successful. But the operation was successful, and Sanders called and canceled the hit.
Doug Sanders Biography:
He played a lot of great golf in his career, winning 20 times on the PGA Tour. But it is Doug Sanders' fate to be remembered for the tournament he didn't win.
At the 1970 British Open, Sanders spent the fourth round holding off Jack Nicklaus for the lead. He reached the final green, where he needed only to make a 30-inch putt to win. But Sanders missed it - one of the most famous short misses in golf history. Sanders played well in the 18-hole playoff the following day, but Nicklaus made a putt on the final hole to beat him.
Sanders finished second in majors four times, but never won.
Sanders grew up in backwoods Georgia. His family didn't have much money, and he picked cotton as a youngster to help out. Sanders got into golf after becoming a caddie at a local 9-hole course. It was also there that he started gambling - something else he was always known for - chipping and putting against grown-ups for nickels and dimes.
After winning the National Junior Chamber of Commerce Tournament, Sanders landed a golf scholarship to the University of Florida. In 1956, Sanders became the first amateur to win the Canadian Open, and he turned pro shortly thereafter. His rookie season on the PGA Tour was 1957.
Sanders won five times in 1961, and three times each in 1962 and 1966. His final win was the 1972 Kemper Open.
Like Jimmy Demaret before him, Sanders spent a lot of time and money on his wardrobe, dressing in brightly colored slacks and shirts that always got him attention from both fans and fellow competitors. At tournaments, everyone wanted to see what Doug Sanders was wearing.
Sanders was flashy in other ways. He had a swing you couldn't miss, one of the shortest backswings ever seen on tour. He also ran with famous crowds, counting many celebrities among his friends, including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Evel Knievel. And, as the quote from Chi Chi Rodriguez above makes clear, Sanders was one of the biggest (and best) gamblers among Tour players.
After leaving the PGA Tour, Sanders spent time as Director of Golf at The Woodlands Country Club near Houston. In 1978, he founded the Doug Sanders International Junior Championship.
Sanders won once on the Champions Tour in the early 1980s.
He currently resides in Houston, where he stays busy with corporate outings, clinics and speaking engagements. He is the author of the book, 130 Different Ways to Make a Bet.