Doug Ford: Profile of Hall-of-Fame Golfer

Doug Ford was a professional golfer who won nearly 20 times on the PGA Tour, mostly in the 1950s. A fast player with a great short game, Ford was the winner of multiple major championships. At one time he held the record for most starts in The Masters, and he also ranks among the most prolific players in combined PGA Tour/Champions Tour starts.

Birth name: Douglas Michael Fortunato

Full name: Douglas Michael Ford Sr.

Date of birth: August 6, 1922

Place of birth: West Haven, Connecticut

Date and place of death: May 14, 2018, in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Nickname: Iron Man, because during his peak years in the 1950s, Ford played so many tournaments and made so many cuts.

Ford's Professional Victories

Doug Ford had 19 wins in official PGA Tour tournaments: He also won numerous other titles off the tour, including these:
  • 1956 Metropolitan Open
  • 1957 Panama Open (Caribbean Tour)
  • 1957 Metropolitan PGA Championship
  • 1957 Westchester PGA Championship
  • 1958 Metropolitan PGA Championship
  • 1959 Eldorado Professional (tied with Sam Snead)
  • 1960 Metropolitan PGA Championship
  • 1961 Westchester Open
  • 1961 Westchester PGA Championship
  • 1963 Westchester Open
  • 1963 Metropolitan PGA Championship
  • 1963 Westchester PGA Championship
As a senior (50-and-over) golfer, Ford won the 1981 Merrill Lynch/Golf Digest Commemorative Pro-Am. That was one year before that tournament became an official Champions Tour event. Ford did not have any official wins on the Senior Tour.

In the Majors

Doug Ford won two major championships, the 1955 PGA Championship and 1957 Masters.

  • 1955 PGA Championship: Ford won the PGA Championship in his very first appearance in this major, the first golfer to do so since Tom Creavy in 1931. In his first two matches (the PGA Championship was still match play at this point), Ford beat George Fazio and then Ted Kroll, both by 2-and-1 scores. Then he walloped Wally Ulrich, 12 and 10. In the quarterfinals, Ford dispatched Fred Hawkins, 5 and 4, then beat Shelley Mayfield, 4 and 3, in the semifinals.

    That set up a championship match between Ford, one of the fastest players in the game, and Cary Middlecoff, one of the slowest. Knowing he'd be waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Middlecoff all day, Ford had his 10-year-old son follow in the gallery with a folding chair. When Middlecoff made him wait, Ford took a seat to save his legs.

    Middlecoff had a 1-up lead after the morning 18 of the 36-hole match, but Ford squared it on the 26th hole. Ford then went 3-up with birdies on the 29th, 30th and 32nd holes, and closed out a 4-and-3 victory on the 33rd hole.

    Ford had also been medalist in the stroke-play qualifying rounds, making him one of just four golfers from the tournament's match-play era to earn medalist honors and then win the trophy.

  • 1957 Masters: Two years after his first win in a major, Ford added his second major championship title. Ford entered the final round in a tie for sixth place, three strokes behind leader Sam Snead, who was trying to become The Masters' first four-time champion.

    Snead carded an even-par 72 in the final round, but Ford was on fire. He posted a 6-under 66, at the time the lowest final-round ever in The Masters. And that pushed him from three behind Snead to three in front, and to the Masters championship.

    Ford punctuated the victory by holing out from a plugged lie in a bunker on the 72nd hole.

Ford first played in a major at the 1949 U.S. Open. His last major championship appearance was in the 2001 Masters (which, under the tournament rules at the time, he was entitled to play for as long as he wished as a past champion) at age 78.

Ford's continued participation in The Masters, which continued well past the point of his ability to play good golf in that setting, caused The Masters to "request" that Ford stop playing. The tournament instituted a new policy under which past champions are "allowed" to play as many years as they wish, but are "requested" to stop playing when their games are no longer up to creating respectable scores at Augusta National. Ford's final start in 2001 was his 49th start in The Masters, which was the tournament's all-time record at the time.

Ford had 13 Top 5 finishes in majors, six of those in the Top 5. His best finish apart from his two victories was tied for second in his title defense at the 1958 Masters. Ford was outside the Top 10 as the final round began, but he carded a 70 to tie Fred Hawkins, one stroke behind the champion Arnold Palmer.

Ford was solo fifth in the 1962 PGA Championship, and tied fifth in the 1959 U.S. Open and 1961 PGA Championship. He also finished in the Top 10 at The Masters in 1956 (t6); in the U.S. Open in 1955 (t7), 1956 (t9), 1961 (t6) and 1962 (t8); and in the PGA Championship in 1959 (t9) and 1960 (t7).

More About Doug Ford

Aside from the wins and consistent play, Doug Ford was known for two things on the golf course: He was a very fast player, and he had one of the best short games of his era.

Ford liked to play fast, so fast that one commentator once said that Ford "looks as if he is playing through the group he is playing with."

He was an excellent putter and superb overall from 125 yards and in. Doug Sanders once said that Ford "had the best short game I ever saw." That short game helped make up for the fact that Ford was a shorter hitter than most of the other top players of his era.

Ford was also a strong believer in playing for money, even if just a token amount, as a way of learning how to handle the nerves and pressure of having something on the line. He once explained, "If you want to be a good tournament player, you've got to learn to handle the heat. The only way to prepare for that is to play for your own dough." One of the ways Ford did that was playing golf hustlers at courses around New York prior to turning pro. (Ford later told biographers he delayed trying the PGA Tour because he was making so much money in gambling matches.)

Ford was born in Connecticut but his father moved the family to the New York City-area when Doug was young. His father (as well as three of Ford's uncles) was a golf pro, and at the time of the New York move his father changed the family name from Fortunato to Ford to avoid anti-Italian prejudice.

Doug grew up excelling at both baseball and golf, and later in his life Ford told a story about the New York Yankees wanting to sign him. His father advised Ford to stick with golf, which, unlike baseball, could be a lifelong game for him.

Ford began winning big junior tournaments before World War I, starting with the New York Junior in 1940, Westchester Junior in 1941, and the New York Junior again in 1942. He then entered the Coast Guard, in which he served during World War II.

After the war, and after winning a few regional amateur titles, Ford turned pro in 1949 at the age of 27. In 1950, his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Ford made 23 of 25 cuts and posted two Top 10 finishes.

During the 1951 season, Ford twice finished 72 holes tied for the lead, but then lost in an 18-hole playoff. At the Texas Open, he lost to Dutch Harrison, 67 to 68; at the Kansas City Open, to Cary Middlecoff, 68 to 72. He also had a third runner-up finish on tour that year.

Ford's first PGA Tour victory, then, followed in 1952 and via a playoff, although in unusual circumstances. At the Jacksonville Open, Ford and Sam Snead were to play an 18-hole playoff. But Snead forfeited, handing Ford his first career PGA Tour victory, because Snead felt uncomfortable about a favorable ruling he had received during the second round (read more about the incident).

So there were probably some golf fans at the time who thought Ford's first win a fluke. But he quickly proved that wasn't the case: Ford won at least once every year for the next 11 with the exception of 1956. He won three times in 1953, twice in 1954, three in 1955, three in 1957, and two times in 1962.

One of his 1954 victories was in an 18-hole playoff at the Greater Greensboro Open. Ford defeated Marty Furgol, 72 to 75.

His three victories in 1955 included the PGA Championship, plus the All American Open and the Carling Golf Classic. He finished in the Top 10 at 20 tournaments and finished third on the money list. Ford was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year at the end of the season.

One of Ford's biggest wins in a non-major was at the 1957 Western Open, where he won a four-way playoff over George Bayer, Gene Littler and Billy Maxwell. His 1957 season was even better than his 1955 campaign: He won the Western, The Masters and the Los Angeles Open, one major plus two other big titles. He recorded 24 Top 10 finishes and was runner-up on the money list.

Fourteen of Ford's 19 career PGA Tour victories happened in the 1950s, including the 1959 Canadian Open. But he still had a few wins left in the early 1960s, including a sudden-death playoff win over Arnold Palmer in the 1961 500 Festival Open Invitation. He won another sudden-death playoff to take the 1962 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am. His final PGA Tour win was in the 1963 Canadian Open.

Along the way, Ford was named to Team USA for the Ryder Cup four times. He compiled an overall 4-4-1 record, including 2-2-1 in singles matches. In his debut in the 1955 Ryder Cup, Ford went 2-0-0, including a singles victory over Harry Weetman.

His other singles results included a 6-and-5 loss to Bernard Hunt in the 1957 Ryder Cup. In the 1959 Ryder Cup, Ford halved with Norman Drew. He played two singles matches in the 1961 Ryder Cup, first beating Weetman again, the losing to Dai Rees.

Ford's PGA Tour results began falling off after 1963. He last had a Top 10 tournament finish in 1969, but Ford continued to play 15 or so tournaments a year (sometimes more than 20) into the mid-1970s.

During his peak years (1952-63), Ford never finished outside the Top 20 on the money list, and had 10 consecutive finishes in the Top 10 on the money list. He was seventh in 1951, eighth in 1952, second (to Lew Worsham) in 1953, eighth in 1954, third in 1955, 10th 1956, second (to Dick Mayer) in 1957, 10th in 1958, eighth in 1959 and seventh in 1960.

By the end of 1962, Ford had won more money in the post-war era than anyone else on tour except for Palmer.

PGA Tour stats show Ford with 744 career starts in official tour events, with 169 Top 10 finishes. In addition to his 19 victories, Ford was runner-up 23 times, finished third 14 times, and was in the Top 5 at 97 tournaments.

Seven of those second-place finishes were the result of playoff losses. In addition those those already mentioned above, Ford fell in playoffs at the 1953 Greater Greensboro Open, 1955 Rubber City Open, 1955 Philadelphia Daily News Open, 1956 Western Open and the 1957 Rubber City Open. That last one was a sudden-death playoff against Arnold Palmer, which Palmer won with birdie on the sixth extra hole. Ford's overall PGA Tour playoff record was five wins, seven losses.

Ford once held the PGA Tour's all-time record for most cuts made, although Palmer soon eclipsed him. But still today, Ford's 560 made cuts is one of the 10 highest totals in PGA Tour history. Ford's 744 career starts on the PGA Tour is also one of the 10 highest totals.

Ford was already 58 years old in the year the Champions Tour was born (1980). He never won, but Ford got in a lot of starts over the years — 332. He had one second-place finish, one third, and six total Top 10 showings on the senior circuit. His final appearance on the Champions Tour was in 2000, when he was 78 years old.

That one second-place finish on the Champions Tour was a playoff loss to Don January in the 1981 Michelob Egypt Temple Senior Classic. He did win twice, however, in the then-unofficial Legends of Golf tournament. In 1987, Ford and partner Jerry Barber won the 60-and-over division; and in 1996 Ford and partner Art Wall won the 70-and-over division.

His 332 senior tour starts, combined with his 744 PGA Tour starts, gave Ford 1,076 combined starts between the two tours. He was one of the first golfers to cross the 1,000-combined-starts threshold.

Ford authored several books of golf instruction in the 1950s and 1960s. Those include Start Golf Young, published in 1955; How I Play Inside Golf, from 1960; The Brainy Way to Better Golf, from 1961; plus two books published in 1964, The Wedge Book and Getting Started in Golf (affiliate links used for books). He also authored Golf Basics, a 25-page instructional pamphlet for Sears during Ford's time as part of the Sears Advisory Staff.

Ford was 95 years old when he died in 2018. He had been the oldest-living major championship winner.

Ford is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, plus the PGA Hall of Fame, Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame, Yonkers Sports Hall of Fame, and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

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