Tributes have been paid to Doug Sanders, the so-called ‘Peacock of the Fairways’, who passed away at his home in Texas on Sunday. He was 86.
A winner of 20 PGA Tour titles, Sanders was arguably better known for his flamboyant dressing and, in particular, his close-calls in major championships.
He most infamously missed a short putt to win The Open at St Andrews in 1970, ultimately losing out to Jack Nicklaus in a play-off when the pair returned for a further 18 holes the following day.
“My life might have been a lot different if I’d made that putt,” he told bunkered in 2016. “I might have made $200m more. I could have designed golf courses or got other endorsement deals. I could have been a very rich man. But I’m rich in other ways.”
Born in Cedertown, a small city in north-west Georgia, in 1933, Sanders grew up during the Great Depression, the deepest and most long-lasting economic downturn in western history.
At the age of seven, he started cotton-picking for just 50 cents a day to contribute to his parents’ household income. He claimed that he didn’t own a pair of shoes until he was 12, having lost his virginity in a ditch a year earlier.
At the age of ten, he traded cotton-picking for caddying at a local nine-hole golf course, beginning a lifelong love affair with golf.
After attending the University of Florida on a golf scholarship, he turned professional in 1956. By the time he did so, he was already a PGA Tour winner thanks to his victory in the Canadian Open in July of the same year. He was the last amateur to win on the PGA Tour until Scott Verplank in 1985.
With his immediately recognisable short, flat swing, Sanders won a further 19 times between 1956 and 1972. He also played on the US Ryder Cup team in the 1967 match in Houston and established himself as one of the game’s most stylish characters.
“Everything was coordinated,” he said. “My shirts, my slacks, my shoes, my socks, even my underwear. I had six suitcases of clothes that I took to every tournament with me. The better I felt I looked, the better I felt I’d play.”
He was also befriended by Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr and Dean Martin.
“I remember the first night we met. Sinatra said he was going to take me to New York the next weekend. Dean said, ‘No, Frank, I’m taking him to Chicago.’ We had a lot of great times together.”
By the time he retired from playing, the only thing missing from his CV was a major victory. He is widely considered to be one of the finest players never to have won one of the game’s four biggest events. In 49 appearances, he finished second four times, with nine other top-tens to his credit.