Dale Douglass: Golfer Set Records on Senior Tour

Dale Douglass was a PGA Tour golfer from the mid-1960s into the 1980s, winning several times. But his career really bloomed after he turned 50 and joined the Champions Tour. He became one of the most successful golfers in the early history of the senior circuit, including winning the U.S. Senior Open in 1986.

Full name: Dale Dwight Douglass

Date of birth: March 5, 1936

Place of birth: Wewoka, Oklahoma

Date and place of death: July 6, 2022, in Scottsdale, Arizona

His Biggest Wins

PGA Tour (3)

Off the tour, Douglass also won the 1965 Arizona Open and 1983 Colorado PGA Championship.

Champions Tour (11)

Douglass also partnered with Charles Coody to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in 1990 and 1994, not counted as official tour wins.

In the Majors

Douglass first played in a major in the 1965 PGA Championship (t43) and last in the 1987 U.S. Open (t31). He played in a total of 20 majors, with no Top 10 finishes. His best showing was tied for 13th in the 1969 U.S. Open. Douglass also had Top 20 finishes in the 1969 Masters, 1974 U.S. Open and 1975 PGA Championship.

Douglass won one senior major, the 1986 U.S. Open, and lost in a playoff at another, the 1994 Tradition (more on those below).

More About Dale Douglass

Dale Douglass was born in Oklahoma but his family moved to Colorado in time for him to graduate from high school in Fort Morgan, Colo., and he was always strongly associated with that state.

He graduated from the University of Colorado in 1959, where he was a three-time, first-team All-Conference golfer. Douglass turned pro in 1960 and became a teaching pro in Colorado, but also got into six PGA Tour tournaments that year and made three cuts. The year 1963 was his first year with double-digit starts on the PGA Tour, and he posted his first top 10 finish on tour that year. He reached full-time status (20+ starts) on the tour in 1965.

Douglass' first taste of national fame was for something he'd rather not have happened: During the 1963 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Douglass made a 19 on the 10th hole during the fourth round. Douglass hit it off the course and onto the beach, where his ball initially lodged at the base of a cliff. He tried several times to hit it out of that spot, and the ball finally rolled out onto the sand, but into an unplayable lie. He took 14 strokes (counting penalty strokes) to get the ball back onto the fairway.

"I was on the green in 17," Douglass told the press, "and two-putted. And I was trying my best on all the shots, but you just couldn't get any footing."

Douglass' 19 remains one of the highest single-hole scores in PGA Tour history. His score for the round was 92. But five years after that debacle his PGA Tour play began paying off: In 1968, Douglass had his first runner-up finish, at the Sahara Invitational, and tied for third in the Hawaiian Open.

And then, over 10 months in 1969 and 1970, Douglass scored three wins — the only three wins he'd have, it turned out, on the PGA Tour. That first PGA Tour win was in April at the Azalea Open. In June, Douglass added the Kemper Open.

Douglass wound up 12th on the season-ending money list for 1969, his only finish inside the Top 20. And he also wound up on Team USA in the 1969 Ryder Cup, his only appearance in that competition. Douglass got into two matches but lost both, a fourball plus, in singles, a 3-and-2 defeat by Peter Butler.

And the third victory in that 10-month, 1969-70 stretch? In January 1970 Douglass won the Phoenix Open. He finished 1970 at No. 23 on the money list.

At the 1971 Kemper Open, Douglass bogeyed the last two holes to fall into a tie with Tom Weiskopf after 72 holes, but Weiskopf won their sudden-death playoff on the first extra hole. It was one of three runner-up finishes for Douglass in 1971. He was 25th on the money list that year, his last finish in the Top 50.

Douglass played in three playoffs total on the PGA Tour, but lost all three: 1968 Sahara Invitational (to Chi Chi Rodriguez); 1970 Greater Jacksonville Open (18-holes to Don January, 69-72); plus the 1971 Kemper Open

While Douglass never won again on the PGA Tour and had no more high money-list finishes, he continued playing 20-plus tournaments most years until the early 1980s. He last appeared in a PGA Tour tournament in 1990, by which point he was a big winner on the senior circuit.

For his career, Douglass played 531 tournaments on the PGA Tour and had 45 Top 10 finishes. In addition to his three victories, he was runner-up seven times and third place twice, with 18 total Top 5s.

Douglass turned 50 in 1986 and immediately joined the Senior Tour. And he got off to one of the best starts in Champions Tour history. Eleven days after that 50th birthday, Douglass was in a playoff at the Senior Tour Roundup, which he lost to Charles Owens. But then he won the next two weeks, first at the Vintage Invitational, then, wire-to-wire, at the Johnny Mathis Senior Classic. His first three weeks on the senior circuit netted Douglass nearly $100,000, more than he had ever earned on the PGA Tour in any season, and more than he had earned in his previous 10 years combined on the PGA Tour.

But his biggest win — the biggest win of his career — was still to come in his rookie senior season. At the 1986 U.S. Senior Open, Douglass opened with a 66 to take a 3-stroke lead, a lead he never relinquished. That first round included one strech of five consecutive birdies, setting a tournament record that he continued to share all the way until 2022. He wound up winning at 279 (a tournament scoring record at the time), holding off a Gary Player rally for a one-stroke victory. And that was the first (and, through 2023, the only) wire-to-wire-with-no-ties victory in U.S. Senior Open history. And, at age 50 years, three months, 24 days, Douglass became the tournament's youngest winner, a record he still holds.

Douglass finished his first year as a senior golfer with four wins and was third on the season-ending money list.

He never had that kind of year again on the Champions Tour, but Douglass remained a contender well into his 60s.

In 1987, Douglass had zero wins but five runner-up finishes (including at the 1987 Senior PGA Championship) and was seventh on the money list. He also finished in the top 10 on the Champions Tour money list in 1990, 1991 and 1992. The 1992 season was the other year (in addition to 1986) in which Douglass posted multiple wins, taking the NYNEX Commemorative and Ameritech Senior Open. He also had two seconds and 16 Top 10s in 1992 and finished sixth on the money list, his second-best finish in earnings.

Douglass came very close in another senior major, the 1994 Tradition. There, he ended regulation play tied with Raymond Floyd. But Floyd won their sudden-death playoff on the first extra hole.

His last Champions Tour win was in 1996 at age 60 at the Bell Atlantic Classic. At the time he was the sixth-oldest winner in Senior Tour history. At the end of that year, Douglass' 11 career wins tied him for 13th-best in tour history. And Douglass then ranked 10th on the Champions Tour all-time money list, and was 17th all-time on the list of combined PGA Tour/Champions Tour career money.

Douglass had one more runner-up finish in a major, though, in the 1997 Senior PGA Championship. He tied Jack Nicklaus for second, although 12 strokes behind his fellow University of Colorado grad and longtime friend Hale Irwin.

In the 2005 U.S. Senior Open, Douglass made the cut at age 69, becoming, at that time, the oldest golfer to do so. He last played in the U.S. Senior Open in 2011, his 26th appearance. That is the record for most appearances in this senior major, besting Arnold Palmer by one.

Overall on the Champions Tour, Douglass made 600 starts with 151 Top 10 finishes, 83 of which were Top 5. In addition to his 11 victories, Douglass posted 26 second-place finishes and 16 thirds.

Douglass was 86 years old when he died in 2022. He is a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and the University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame.

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