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Chi Chi Rodríguez: 1935—: Golfer

Began Winning Tournaments

Rodríguez won his first tournament in 1963 at the Denver Open. He became known for having the softest hands on the tour, with a deadly short game. Even though he was small in stature, Rodríguez created tremendous club head speed on his drives, and in his younger days could regularly drive the ball over 250 yards. His problems on the course almost always manifested themselves on the greens. His inconsistent putting almost always kept him from reaching the next plateau in golfing greatness. As it was, he only won eight tournaments during his 25 years on the PGA Tour, and averaged $40,000 in annual earnings, just over $1 million for his career.

His best year came in 1964, when Rodríguez won two tournaments and finished ninth on the money list, but the following year his game fell apart. Still mourning the death of his beloved father in 1963, Rodríguez also had a new wife, Iwalani, and her daughter, whom he adopted. Perhaps the pressure of supporting a family on his golf game was too much for Rodríguez, but he was more likely to attribute it to an article on putting he wrote for a golf publication. He got, as he put it, "paralysis by analysis." He told Sports Illustrated, "I got $50 for that article, but it cost me a million. I would get on the dance floor, but I couldn't hear the band."

Rodríguez's best finish at a major championship was a tie for sixth at the 1981 U.S. Open, although he won the Western Open in 1964, which at the time was considered a major tournament. By 1984 he was considering retirement, but he found new inspiration when Jack Nicklaus asked him to endorse a line of clubs for MacGregor Golf Company, co-owned by Nicklaus. The offer gave Rodríguez an overwhelming boast of confidence that carried him through to his 50th birthday and his stunning arrival on the Champions Tour (previously known as the Senior PGA).

Rodríguez joined the Champions Tour for the last event in 1985, and the next year he won three tournaments, finished second seven times, and took home $350,000. Although he was previously making more than $200,000 a year in endorsements, appearances, and corporate-sponsored events, this was Rodríguez's first experience making big money with his play. He credited much of his new success to putting advice given to him by well-known pro instructor Bob Toski, who saw the flaw in Rodríguez's putting stance. In 1987 Rodríguez came back to dominate the senior tour, winning seven tournaments, including the PGA Seniors' Championship, and set a record as the first player to reach $500,000 in single-season earnings. After winning a total of three tournaments in 1988 and 1989, Rodríguez won three times in 1990 and four times in 1991. His last tournament win came in 1993. By 2003 he had earned more than $6 million on the Champions Tour, for a career-earnings total of over $7 million.

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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