May 9 2011
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Doug Ford is 88 years old and he still can hit a driver 230 yards. More importantly for anyone who loves the game, he's sharp as a tack, and Ford entertained the media on Monday prior to his induction in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
"It's like waiting for an old girlfriend, I guess," Ford said of his selection in the veterans category. "You keep thinking, what did I do wrong? I thought I had some fairly good record, and you just hope that you get here. Of course it's an honor."
Ford, whose father was a golf pro, won 19 times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1955 PGA and 1957 Masters. He earned medalist honors at that PGA and went on to beat Cary Middlecoff 4 and 3 and then made up a three-stroke deficit on Sunday at Augusta National to beat Sam Snead by the same margin.
But some of Ford's most entertaining comments Monday afternoon centered around the big money games he played, particularly in the Miami area during the 18 months he was stationed there.
"We used to laugh, the course that we hung out at, that I used to play a lot, Miami Springs, had a big porch around the putting green like the putting green and the porch," Ford said. "All the hustlers used to hang out on there, and they would look for guys that didn't have a sunburn and they'd hustle that guy. It was an education."
Ford joined the PGA TOUR in 1950, making his debut at the Los Angeles Open at Riviera. In those days, only the top 15 finishers earned money. So Ford said he often won more cash on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday than he did after the tournament began.
"It's funny, the fellow I used to gamble a lot with was a fellow named Jerry Barber, and he was from California, and he was as stubborn as I was," Ford recalled. "He thought he could beat anybody. But he was my pigeon. I beat him for $6,000 one time, and I said to him, 'Jerry, you can't beat me.' He says, 'I'll keep trying. And I said, 'Well, I'll be very happy to accommodate you.'
"But his friends, when he first started, his friend says, what are you doing out there with all those guys? They're all great players. He said, 'You've got to go to the University Learn Something.' And he was right. He stuck there and he became a great player. But he was a stubborn little man."
Ford, who now splits his time between New Hampshire, where his son owns a golf course, and Florida, says he could win $300 to $400 in a day, which would get him to the next town. He has to chuckle when TV announcers talk about players standing over a 4-footer which will be worth $800,000 if he wins and $500,000 if he misses.
"I said, you should have played when I played when you'd have that length of putt for $100 to get to the next town,” Ford said. "That's pressure. But everybody's pressures are different."