CU golf legend Dale Douglass has died
At CU, he played on the all-conference first team three times, in the Big Seven in 1956 and the Big Eight in 1958 and 1959. He finished eighth, seventh and fifth respectively in the league championships in those years. and remains one of five Buffaloes to have three top-10 finishes at a conference championship. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, the second golfer after Hale Irwin to be so honoured.
“Dale was so proud to be from Fort Morgan and the University of Colorado,” Irwin said Wednesday night from Akron, where he is scheduled to compete in a pro-Am. “He proudly wore the school colors. Personally, I have lost a close friend that I have had for 57 years. More importantly, golf has lost a true gentleman and a man who has truly championed golf in all the country. He did so much for a lot of people, especially in Colorado. Nobody ever said anything bad to you about Dale Douglass.
“Dale was like my big brother and I was like his bratty little brother,” he reflected. “We often use the word mentor, but in Dale’s case, I can elevate the word mentor to friend. I will miss him.”
“Back when we had sponsors and all the courtesies we have now, you were pretty much on your own,” Irwin recalled. “You had to drive to most events, find your own hotel and organize a caddy there. It was a lot for a young man to understand, but Dale was the one who helped me navigate the tour. That in itself was difficult for anyone – it was night and day compared to now.”
Irwin was in Charlotte at the 1969 Kemper Open and saw it finish when he won by four strokes over Charles Coody, his second victory on the tour at the time. In 1974, when Irwin won his first of three US Opens at Winged Foot (Mamaroneck, NY), Irwin, Douglass (who finished tied for 18th) and their wives (Sally and Joyce, respectively) celebrated that night with hotel room service, one of the countless dinners the couples have had together.
Douglass won three times on the PGA Tour (with three playoff losses) and was one of the first players to find great success on the Senior Tour (since renamed the Champions Tour). He won 11 times on this circuit, including a major, beating the legendary Gary Player by a stroke at the 1986 US Senior Open in Columbus, Ohio. He also had 26 second-place finishes to go along with his 11 wins.
He finished in the top 20 at major golf tournaments four times: in 1969 he finished 13th at the US Open and 19th at the Masters; he finished tied for 18th at the 1974 US Open (when Irwin won) and tied for 17th at the 1975 PGA Championship. He became the fifth player in history to play in 500 tournaments when he reached the milestone in 2003 and won over $9 million as a professional. He had turned pro in 1960, earned his PGA Tour card in 1963, and joined the Senior Tour in 1986 where he would become a fixture for over 20 years, playing in exactly 600 Senior/Champions Tour events, with 151 top 10 finishes. and 283. in the top 25 (he made the cut 567 times).
Colorado athletic director rick georgewhen he was president of the Champions Tour from 2003 to 2008, had the opportunity to get to know Douglass.
“Dale was a class act,” George said. “He was a true gentleman in every way and conducted himself on and off the course with grace and humility. He had a long and successful career, not only playing the game but also giving back to it.”
Douglass created an endowment for the CU golf program and also sponsored an annual tournament in his name at Fort Morgan, among his many charitable causes.
‘This is a very sad day for Colorado golf,’ CU head coach said Roy Edwards said. “Dale Douglass is an icon at every level of the game. As great a golfer as he was, he was an even better person. A true legend who was a great friend to everyone.”
He mentored future players, including several Buff alumni on Tour, not only Irwin, but also CU’s 1996 US Open champion, Steve Jones.
“We’ve played a lot of golf together over the years and given me a lot of good advice as well as lessons,” Jones said. “The one I remember the most was at the start of the 1989 season, I got advice from him and Hal Sutton. Dale gave me great advice on shots close to the green and in particular on the exit bunkers. They were essential in helping me win the first event that year, the MONY Tournament of Championships, and then the following week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
“He was a good friend of the program,” he added. “I first met him when (the coach) Marc Simpson showed him around with the team. He helped us with advice in all areas of the game, especially with our swings. It’s sad to hear the news, he meant a lot to the game of golf in Colorado.”
Born Dale Dwight Douglass on March 5, 1936, in Wewoka, Okla., he grew up in Fort Morgan, Colorado, where he graduated from high school before enrolling at CU in the fall of 1955. He was predeceased in death by his wife, Joyce and is survived by his sister, Barbara Lebsock of Highlands Ranch. Services are on hold but will be held in Colorado Springs.
“We were all very close,” Irwin said of the families’ relationship. “It was a really tough time for Dale when Joyce passed away. But I’m sure they’re together now, Dale having a golf club in hand, probably practicing with his old McGregor tournament putter.”