Dale Douglass to make 600th start on Champions Tour

Michael Cohen/PGA TOUR
Dale Douglass, shown here in 2006, will make his 600th Champions Tour start at the U.S. Senior Open.
July 25, 2011
Jeff Szklinski, Champions Tour staff

Dale Douglass is in the field list for this week's U.S. Senior Open at Inverness. It will be his 600th career start on the Champions Tour. Only Miller Barber has more, with 603. Douglass, who won three times on the PGA TOUR and 11 times officially on the Champions Tour, will also set a new record by playing in his 26th consecutive U.S. Senior Open. (He was tied with Arnold Palmer at 25 straight). Jeff Szklinski, Champions Tour staff, spoke to Douglass recently about the upcoming tournament.

Jeff Szklinski: What does making your 600th start on the Champions Tour mean to you after all these years? Do you remember your first start?

Dale Douglass: Well, it's something I never did think about [making 600 starts]. And I found out about it earlier this year, so it's been on my mind. Why not, I might as well go play this one more time. Hopefully I won't embarrass myself.

In my first (pro) tournament, there was no qualifying school. You filled out the forms. The local pro in Denver told me it would take about a month. So a month later I bought a car and drove from Colorado to Pensacola. I showed up there and went to the tour official and said, 'Hello I'm a pro.' I hadn't received my card or anything. He said we don't have you on the list but I'll check tomorrow. He did, and the PGA had just approved my card, and so he let me qualify. A few days later I was the low qualifier at the Pensacola Open in 1960.

Jeff Szklinski: What did it mean to you to be inducted into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, especially given everything you still give back to the University (golf scholarships, etc.)?(golf scholarships, etc.)?

Dale Douglass: Anytime someone recognizes you, it's a real honor. It's something that's special. I'm not sure it's always well deserved, but I'm very proud that they've honored me.

Jeff Szklinski: What are your thoughts on CU moving into the "new" Pac 12 this year? How do you think the Buffs will fare?

Dale Douglass: I think it's pretty exciting. I don't know about the recruiting that they will be able to do. Everybody says that area will be tough to get recruits. Colorado is a top school, I hope they come up with some baseball, too, one of these days, but that might be down the road.

Jeff Szklinski: Hale Irwin said: "If there's anyone outside of my family that has had a direct and significant contribution, positive contribution to my career, it's been Dale Douglass." Can you talk about your relationship with Hale and how it began??

Dale Douglass: That's very nice of him to say. Hale and I actually met (he doesn't remember) when I was in school and he was a little kid playing in Boulder and we let him play through 'cause he was playing by himself.

But then later in 1967, there was a tournament in Cincinnati that a lot of the pros played in. I got a hold of him and asked if he wanted to play with me, and we actually won that tournament.

So this was the beginning of a very good relationship. He and I played a lot of practice rounds together when he first came out. We played in the PGA four-ball in Oklahoma City on his honeymoon.

Hale was very well-prepared to play the TOUR when he got there, to no real help of mine. We were just good friends.

[On having a place about a par-5 apart right near each other in Arizona]

I talked to him earlier today; I was told I have a big tree that looks like it might fall down in my yard, and he called and said he was going to go take a look at it.

He is a good friend, and a great player and we enjoy each other.

Jeff Szklinski: Can you talk about how your car accident helped you find your game again and bring it to the Champions Tour??

Dale Douglass: Just before we went to the Ryder Cup matches is when that happened. I had a lot of neck problems through the 70's. I was working hard to get back to being a competent player on the TOUR, and right about then the Senior Tour showed up.

It was excellent timing because it was when I was starting to be able to find my golf ball again. I had a great start there. It's been a blessing for a lot of golfers to be able to play on the Champions Tour.

People don't know what to expect when they move to the Champions Tour. A lot of guys now are preparing to do that as they approach 50. All of a sudden, all these kids show up and outdrive them [on the PGA TOUR] and the Champions Tour starts looking pretty nice.

Jeff Szklinski: Since you tend to like the older golf courses (ones made before 1930) that are shorter, do you think something needs to be done to move golf technology into a direction of less "distance"?

Dale Douglass: It's true that the technology has made a lot of courses not play as competitively as they used to. I think that sooner or later they will do something to the golf ball and make it not go quite as far.

Then the golf courses will be back where they would be competitive again. The only other option is making the golf courses longer and longer.

At Augusta, they bought the whole neighborhood and moved houses out to make it longer.

Jeff Szklinski: You won the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament three times with Charles Coody, and also played on the 1969 Ryder Cup team at Royal Birkdale. What is it about a "team" type of tournament that you enjoy??

Dale Douglass: It's always fun to play with friends and Charles is one of my close friends. The pressures are a little different in team play than in regular play. You're playing not only for yourself, but for your partner as well. Charles and I teamed really well together and somehow we came out ahead.

(On the Ryder Cup): We didn't get to keep the cup actually. That was a tough thing. They allowed the cup to stay in England for one year; then they sent it to us. It wasn't a real popular decision.

We were expecting for them to let us retain the cup. Without checking with us, they decided to let it stay in England. Other than that though, playing in the Ryder Cup was a very nice experience.

Jeff Szklinski: At Inverness this year, a few guys will be playing on some familiar territory. Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open here in 1979, John Cook grew up in Toledo (and went to Ohio State), Joey Sindelar and Rod Spittle both went to Ohio State. What was it like for you to be able to play in the U.S. Senior Open at the Broadmoor [2008] a few years ago in your home state?

Dale Douglass: I played in the Open at Cherry Hills [in Denver] in '78 too. Anytime you are playing close to home, it's nice to have a lot of people there pulling for you. It's inspiring where you can know that they are there rooting you on.

It's not a distraction though. If you are doing this and have done it for a while, like me, you are used to having people around.

I enjoyed the Broadmoor, but unfortunately I didn't play very well in that tournament.

In '93 we played the Senior Open at Cherry Hills, which unfortunately I should have won but didn't.

Jeff Szklinski: You were vice president of the PGA in 1972. What was that experience like??

Dale Douglass: I was on the PGA TOUR policy board. We had one representative on the PGA Board. I drew the short straw. Actually, I went to all the meetings and made some nice friends and got an opportunity to meet a few people, which was great. It was a one-year stint, but they didn't ask me to do anything special other than just to be there.

It was a time when we had a lot of harmony with the PGA as opposed to a few years before that, so we were getting along well.