Doug Sanders: Golf's original playboy

2016 06 Sanders6 Sanders talks with a particular fondness for Sinatra. Even now, at the age of 82 and almost two decades on from the legendary singer’s death, you get the feeling that he is still a little dumbstruck that he was ever able to forge a friendship with such a major celebrity and cultural icon.

“Ah, ‘Old Blue Eyes’,” he laughs as I push for more information about their friendship. “That’s what they all called him - Old Blue Eyes. To me, though, he was always ‘Francis Albert’. He was a wonderful man, but only if he liked you. If he did, he was very friendly, very generous and loyal. But if he didn’t warm to quickly, he wouldn’t give you the time of day.”

He pauses for a few seconds, clearly lost in a memory. “Yeah, we had a lot of fun back then. I met all the big names: Willie Nelson, Buddy Greco, Evel Knievel, Bob Hope, lots of presidents. I was in my element. It was a great time.”

If Gary Player was ahead of the curve when it came to physical conditioning, Doug Sanders was was a pioneer of golf fashion. The self-styled ‘Peacock of the Fairways’, he found fame for his colour-coordinated outfits.

“People used to place bets on which colour I’d wear,” he laughs. “They would even offer me money to tell them.”

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Sanders5

He admits going to ‘extraordinary lengths’ to get his outfits right. He even went in to pharmacies where he would pick the colourful medicine capsules he liked best and have the pharmacist empty the medicine from them, so he could send them to the factory where his clothes were made to have his outfits colour-matched.

“Everything was coordinated,” he says. “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.”

I ask if his penchant for fashion was the result of a childhood spent wearing other kids’ used clothes. “I don’t know,” he says. “All I know is that I liked to look good. I still do.”

With apologies to his great friend Frank, regrets? Yeah, Doug Sanders has had a few but he’s not prepared to dwell on them.

“This game has been so good to me,” he notes. “It has given me everything and more. The things I’ve done, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the friends I’ve made – I wouldn’t trade any of it. People want to talk about the chances I had that I didn’t take and that’s fine. Way I see it, it’s better to have had those chances than not. It doesn’t bother me. Truly, it doesn’t. Like I told you earlier, I’ve been very blessed.”

Elephant? What elephant?

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Doug Sanders in bunkered


This interview with Doug Sanders first appeared in Issue 147 of bunkered (May 2016).

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