Doug Sanders: Flashy PGA Tour Winner

Doug Sanders and Jack Nicklaus
A. Jones/Express/Getty Images

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.

Fast Facts: Doug Sanders

  • Occupation: Professional golfer
  • Nickname: Peacock of the Fairways
  • Born: July 24, 1933 in Cedartown, Georgia
  • Key Accomplishments: Winner of 20 PGA Tour tournaments and runner-up in four major championships.
  • Famous Quote: "Winners listen to other people. They're always trying to learn; they respect other people's opinions. Losers just want to talk."
  • Fun Fact: In 1972, Sanders was named to Esquire magazine's list of the 10 best-dressed sports stars in America.

Sanders won 20 times on the PGA Tour, first in 1956 and last in 1972. He also recorded one victory on the Champions Tour. But hever won a major championship, although he had several close calls. The list of Sanders' tour wins is below.

Awards and Honors

  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1967
  • Member, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Georgia Golf Hall of Fame
  • Member, Florida Sports Hall of Fame

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, and it's become 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 one.

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 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. The Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic was a Champions Tour event from 1988-94.

Sanders won once on the Champions Tour in the early 1980s. He is the author of the book, 130 Different Ways to Make a Bet.

Sanders Once Claimed He Hired a Hitman

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 then 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.

Quote, Unquote

  • 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."

Sanders' Tour Wins

PGA Tour (20)

  • 1956 Canadian Open
  • 1958 Western Open
  • 1959 Coral Gables Open Invitational
  • 1961 Greater New Orleans Open Invitational
  • 1961 Colonial National Invitation
  • 1961 Hot Springs Open Invitational
  • 1961 Eastern Open Invitational
  • 1961 Cajun Classic Open Invitational
  • 1962 Pensacola Open Invitational
  • 1962 St. Paul Open Invitational
  • 1962 Oklahoma City Open Invitational
  • 1963 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1965 Pensacola Open Invitational
  • 1965 Doral Open Invitational
  • 1966 Bob Hope Desert Classic
  • 1966 Jacksonville Open Invitational
  • 1966 Greater Greensboro Open
  • 1967 Doral Open Invitational
  • 1970 Bahama Islands Open
  • 1972 Kemper Open

Champions Tour (1)

  • 1983 World Seniors Invitational

Sanders also won three other pro tournaments not counted as PGA Tour events: the 1957 Colombian Open, the 1959 Sahara Pro-Am, and, in Japan, the 1963 Yomiuri International.