Joe Jimenez, the Golfer Who Reached His Peak After Age 60

A sports trading card depicting golfer Joe Jimenez
Joe Jimenez was a professional golfer best-known for his performance on the Champions Tour, even though he never won a regular tour event. He did have a knack for shooting his age, frequently, and, in the years before the Senior Tour existed, won a tournament that is now called a senior major.

Date of birth: June 10, 1926

Place of birth: Kerrville, Texas

Date and place of death: August 11, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas

Jimenez's Most-Significant Wins

In the 1950s and '60s, Jimenez won a handful of PGA of America tournaments, which are noted in the biography below. While he never won a PGA Tour or Champions Tour tournament, he was dominant within the 60-and-over "Georgia Pacific Grand Champions" division on the senior tour, winning more than 30 of those titles.

"He was the best guy I met here (on the Champions Tour). He wasn't famous, but as a person he was great, the best." — Senior tour golfer Vicente Fernandez

Joe Jimenez's Golf Biography

Born in the Texas Hill Country, Jimenez learned the game as a young caddie in his hometown. He perfected his game while serving in the Air Force during the late 1940s, first breaking 70 during that period.

Jimenez played college golf at Trinity University in San Antonio, graduating in 1952. He turned pro and embarked on a nearly 40-year career as a club professional. Jimenez was a club pro at Midlothian Country Club in Chicago from 1953-56; and at Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan, Kansas, from 1956-63.

In 1964, Jimenez became head pro at Jefferson City Country Club in Jefferson City, Missouri, a position he held until retiring in 1991. To this day, the club holds a charity tournament named the Joe Jimenez Invitational.

Jimenez was never a regular PGA Tour player, although he got into more than 30 tour events over the years (with one Top 10 finish). He also played his way into eight majors. He did win PGA of America events during the '50s and '60s, including the Midwest PGA Championship and Gateway PGA Championship, twice each, along with the South Central PGA Championship and the Missouri Open.

His biggest non-senior-golf victory was the 1960 Puerto Rico Open. Not to be confused with the tournament of that name played today, it was a PGA Tour satellite tournament (meaning it was roughly equivalent to today's Korn Ferry Tour events).

Jimenez Breaks Out in Senior Golf

Turning 50 was a huge boost to Jimenez's tournament golf career. The Champions Tour didn't yet exist, but Jimenez's biggest win was the 1978 Senior PGA Championship, a tournament now called a senior major. Jimenez won it with a birdie on the first playoff hole.

Later that year he added the World Senior Championship title.

After the Champions Tour launched in 1980, Jimenez began playing more tournament golf. He was a full-time tour presence from roughly the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.

Jimenez made 320 starts on the Champions Tour without winning, which ranks in the Top 5 for that stat. But Jimenez was already in his 60s when he began playing regularly on the senior tour — and very few senior tour golfers have won over the age of 60.

Jimenez had a best-finish on the Champions Tour money list of 22nd in 1986, and did post two runner-up tournament finishes. He won nearly one-and-a-half million dollars.

And Jimenez was a dominant player within what was called the "Georgia Pacific Grand Champions" division. That was a sub-division on the senior tour for 60-and-over golfers. Rarely, they played a separate tournament; typically, those golfers entered the main Champions Tour event but were also competing against the other 60-somethines for the Grand Champions title and money.

Jimenez won 31 of those Grand Champions titles, second only to Don January in Champions Tour history. He led the Grand Champions money list three years in a row, 1988-90, and won nine times each in 1989 and 1990.

Jimenez and Charlie Sifford teamed to win the Demaret Division (for 70-and-over golfers) at the Legends of Golf tournament three years running, 1998-2000, and they were runners-up two other times (including 2006, just one year before Jimenez's death).

At the time of Jimenez's death, Sifford said of his friend and partner:

"The guys out there were jealous, knowing that he was going to kick their butts. He made all the Don Januarys and Gene Littlers mad because he outdrove them and outputted them."

Joe Jimenez's Age-Shooter Exploits

Jimenez became known within his senior tour peers as, first, one of the world's greatest over-60 golfers, and, later, as one of the best — maybe the best — 70-and-over golfer.

In an interview with Golf Digest in the early 2000s, former PGA Tour winner turned legendary golf instructor Bob Toski said: "I love competition. If you know someone my age or older you think can beat me, come on down to Florida, name the stakes and let's tee it up. I'm the best 75-year-old golfer in the world, with the possible exception of Joe Jimenez."

In the Champions Tour's 1991 GTE Northwest Classic, Jimenez, at age 65, fired a 63. That made him, at the time, the youngest golfer to beat his age on any significant pro golf tour.

That was the first time in competition that Jimenez bettered his age, but it sure wasn't the last. He became so proficient at matching or beating his age that reporters sometimes asked him about it. "It gets easier as you get older," Jimenez often said.

At the 1995 Ameritech Senior Open, Jimenez, age 69, carded a 62. At the time it was touted as a tour record (since broken) for a golfer beating his age by the most strokes. Jimenez tied for seventh place in that event, and it was the second-lowest score posted on the Champions Tour that year.

The Champions Tour didn't start officially tracking scores-below-age on the tour until 2000, which was the second-to-last year in which Jimenez made a start on the tour. But that year, in the SBC Championship, Jimenez matched or beat his age in all three rounds at age 74.

Jimenez retired from his club pro job in 1994 and played for the last time on the Champions Tour in 2001. His death in 2007 was from lung cancer, although he had never been a smoker.

Jimenez was inducted into the National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Popular posts from this blog

Michelle Wie's Husband (and Former Boyfriend Files)