2 minute read

Chi Chi Rodríguez: 1935—: Golfer

Began Playing Golf

By the time he became a full-fledged caddy, Rodríguez had become intrigued with the game of golf He would rise early to sneak out to the course to practice. On the one day of the week that caddies were allowed to play, he competed fiercely with the other boys. Filling hand-me-down oversized golf shoes with newspaper to make them fit his smaller feet, Rodríguez strutted around the course jangling pieces of broken glass in his pocket to make it sound like he had a lot of spare change.

Despite his slight size, just five-foot seven inches tall and 130 pounds, Rodríguez had incredible hand-eye coordination, even as a child. He could hit rocks and bottle caps pitched at him with a stick, and he became an expert at using a broomstick to hit bats that would fly into the house. According to the Latino Sports Legend website, he "learned how to play golf with clubs fashioned out of guava trees and tin cans hammered into balls." By the time Rodríguez stepped up to his first game of real golf, he could hit the tin-can ball more than one hundred yards.

Baseball was Rodríguez's first love, not golf. In fact, his nickname Chi Chi comes from Puerto Rican Hall-ofFamer Chi Chi Flores. Although Flores wasn't the best baseball player ever, Rodríguez admired him because he tried harder than everyone else. He would tell his friends, "I'm Chi Chi Flores," so everyone began calling him Chi Chi, and the name stuck.

Rodríguez dropped out of high school during his junior year. When he turned 19 he signed up for a two-year stint in the army, and served at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he won the post golf championship. Returning to Puerto Rico in 1957, Rodríguez spent a year working as an orderly in a psychiatric clinic. His job was helping to feed and shower the mentally ill patients. Always the benevolent caregiver, Rodríguez enjoyed his work at the clinic, but was tempted by the promise of the better life that golf could provide. Taking a caddying job at the newly opened Dorado Beach resort, where the most he ever made was $1.70 for 18 holes, he began working with golf pro Pete Cooper, a ten-time PGA winner who still toured occasionally. Cooper changed Rodríguez's grip and made him practice 50-yard wedge shots until he could make the ball bite on a rock-hard green.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyChi Chi Rodríguez: 1935—: Golfer Biography - Grew Up Poor In Puerto Rico, Began Playing Golf, Shocked And Angered With Outrageous Behavior