Doug Ford Reminisces

On the day he'll be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, Doug Ford met with reporters and discussed the honor, which will take place during a ceremony Monday night in St. Augustine, Fla.

Ford will be honored alongside Ernie Els, Jock Hutchison, Jumbo Osaki, President George H.W. Bush and Frank Chirkinian. Hutchison and Chirkinian will be inducted posthumously.

Born in Connecticut and raised in New York City, Ford won 19 titles in the early days of the PGA Tour. His victory total includes wins in the 1955 PGA Championship and the 1957 Masters. He also played in four Ryder Cup matches.

Ford is one of golf's all-time characters. That description was borne out on Monday when he sat down before the ceremony for a media Q&A. Here's what the 88-year-old had to say.

MODERATOR: With me now is one of the great old characters of the game, Mr. Doug Ford, 1957 Masters' winner. We'll open it up to questions right now for Doug.

Q. Mr. Ford, when we talk to a lot of players that are basically not playing anymore, they can recall pretty much everything that happened at certain events. Is that true with you and the '57 Masters?

DOUG FORD: Yeah, oh, yeah, I can remember every shot. The shot that everybody talks about is the one I holed out at 18 out of the bunker. But really the shot that I thought won me the tournament was my second shot at the par-5, the 15th. I had Snead right behind me one shot -- I was one shot in front of him, and he could easily reach 15, which was, you know, just -- it was a gamble for me to go for the green. The day before I had hit a 3-wood, a beautiful shot, and it hit the bank, went up on the edge of the green and came back in the water, and I made 6. And when I got in the locker room, Vic Ghezzi, who was one of the old great players in my time, he said to me, "Why didn't you lay up?" Well, that's a hell of a tough second shot. You're on a downslope to a green that's hard.

Anyhow, the next day, didn't I drive it exactly the same spot, and I had a caddie named Fireball, and he gives me a 4-iron. I said, "What are you doing, Fireball?" He said, "You've got to lay up. They don't remember you around here unless you win this tournament." So we got fighting. I was taking a 3-wood, he was giving me the 4-iron, and we were going back, and the gallery got laughing. Anyway, I ended up hitting a 3-wood, the exact same shot I hit the day before. Hits the bank, this time it went up and went on the green and I made birdie, which gave me kind of a cushion going to 18.

But I plugged it -- the bunker at 18 was then a lot different. There was a piece of the bunker that went up on the left side of the green that was -- you know, I was only about from here to that chair from the hole, plugged, and if I went at the pin, I'd have run right off the green. But that green has got a nice bank in it, and I decided to pop it up the bank. You know, I was just thinking, make 5 and get out of here, and I hit a beautiful explosion that went up and come rolling down that hill and went right in the hole. That was the shot they all talk about. But like I say, I thought I won it on the 15th.

Q. I know you were inducted in the original Hall of Fame, PGA Hall of Fame, but can you just talk about, you've waited a long time for this moment, just what it means with that long wait?

DOUG FORD: Well, it's like waiting for an old girlfriend, I guess. You know, 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. You just got to get here somehow.

Q. Mr. Ford, a few weeks ago when we had a chance to speak in Savannah, you said you hadn't really worked on what you were going to say at the speech. Now that it's a couple hours away, have you put some thoughts together as to what you might say?

DOUG FORD: No, I don't know what -- I just, you know, how I started, my dad and that kind of -- you know, I'm a kid from New York City. I was raised on the island, on the north end of Manhattan island. I played my original golf at public courses in the Bronx and then I had a pretty good background in golf. I had a father that was a golf pro and three uncles, so I had fundamentally a very sound golf swing even when I was a junior. I attributed -- when they asked me how come I had 13 or 14 years without a slump, I attributed that to my knowledge of the game. I think half these guys out there now don't know their golf swing from a hole in the wall. So that's all I attribute it to. But I came up through the ranks as a caddie and worked in a shop and taught. So I think all that adds to how solid your game is.

Q. When you came on to the professional circuit, did they have a situation where you had to get a sponsor before you could come on, or was it you couldn't take any winnings for six months or whatever the rules were at the time?

DOUG FORD: Well, my mother didn't want me to turn pro. Being a golf pro in the '30s and '40s was not a very lucrative position to have. I won a lot of money gambling. I used to gamble as an amateur. I went out one year as an amateur to see if I could play with these fellows because they were good. And I thought, well, I think I can make it. I had saved some money and war bonds and stuff, and I went out on my own in 1950. The first year I was 11th money winner and I had won $7,000, and I never really ever had to -- well, I never was really a real rabbit. I had enough exemption to stay out there, but when I started in '50, when I -- I turned pro in '49 and I had to wait six months before I could take money, so you were dead for six months. My first tournament was the LA Open at Riviera in 1950.

Q. Mr. Ford, can you recognize the game today as it was back when you were playing? How different is it when you see it?

DOUG FORD: Well, you know, it's a different -- it's more target, hit the ball high and drop it in. When I was playing, it was more, you know, the low ball, you bounce it in, the greens were open, and that's the difference I see. But I don't see much difference in the average scoring over the year. These guys are not scoring that much better than we used to score. But it's a different game in that manner I would say. But equipment is what's the key. You couldn't do what they're doing with the old equipment I don't believe. And I played with the greatest, Snead and Hogan and Mangrum and Middlecoff, and those were great players. But I wonder if they'd have had that equipment what they would have done with it.

Q. What were some of the golf courses you played in the Bronx? Is that where you had your money games?

DOUG FORD: No, Westchester, really. The money was up in Westchester. The poor people played Van Cortlandt Park (which) was my home course. But there was a lot of action in Florida. I was stationed in Miami the last year and a half, and there was a lot of action in Miami. 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, and 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.

Q. Did you play a lot at Miami Springs with those guys? Was George Low there?

DOUG FORD: George, yeah, later on. My first introduction with George Low was right after the war. He drove up in a new Lincoln. Nobody had a car, and one of the hustlers was sitting up on the porch and said, "George, where did you get that car?" He said, "Oh, I got it." It was (Frank) Stranahan's car but the guy didn't know. He said, "I'll flip you for it." He said, "I'll flip you 2,500 against the car." George said, "Go ahead." He flipped it. George lost the car. But he says to the fellow, "Look at all the luggage I've got here. I've got to take it over to the hotel and unload it and I'll come back." The guy never saw him again. George Low was some character.

Q. Do you have some of the -- do you play much anymore, and do you have some of the new equipment, and how is it doing for you?

DOUG FORD: Oh, it's a great help. I play not once maybe a week, but oh, the equipment is great. You know, it evens it out. It amazes me how close to how I used to hit it that I can hit it with this equipment.

Q. Do you mind if I ask you how far you can hit your driver?

DOUG FORD: About 230. I just came last -- Friday I was up at the Plantation in Georgia at the TaylorMade facilities. They put you through their facility to see how and what kind of a club you should hit. It's a hell of a thing, process. It's amazing what they can tell you about your golf swing and what they can do to fix your golf club to do what you want it to do.

Q. Did you drive it with one of those White drivers?

DOUG FORD: Yeah, the R11. The one they can adjust.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your short game. Seve Ballesteros -- Nicklaus said Seve Ballesteros could get it up-and-down from a garbage can; Sam Snead said you could get it up-and-down from a sewer, you could get it up-and-down from everywhere. Can you talk about how you became such a good short-game player and how it compared to short games in the history of the game?

DOUG FORD: Well, when I was an amateur around Westchester, I was a member at Bonnie Briar, and I would practice around the greens from different -- just chipping, and my dad had a beautiful chipping stroke, and I kind of copied his stroke. You have to have a good imagination to be a good chipper. That's what I thought about Tiger Woods when I first saw him; I said, the guy has the greatest imagination, the shots he can think to play. You have to imagine the shot before you hit it. That's what I always saw. I used to love to play with Snead, but if you could get up-and-down the first couple of holes, he was all yours.

Q. Your wedge book here, I guess you were the best wedge player since Johnny Revolta 25 years before. Since your competitive days, who do you think are the top three wedge players?


Q. Yeah.

DOUG FORD: Well, I don't follow it that much, but this -- every one of them is a -- more than a better wedge player. They're all great, and that's how they score is their wedge play. You watch every one of them, and that's all they're hitting to the greens now. It's a drive and a wedge, so they've got to be pretty good. You know, when I figured I'd better get out of here in the '70s, I'd hit a drive and a 5-iron, I'd be playing with guys who were hitting drives and 8-irons, and the percentage, you can't beat that percentage. So that's what amazes me now. They can hit it anywhere and they can still get to the green with a wedge. When I played, if you missed the fairway you didn't get to the green.

Q. Could you talk about maybe what exactly it was when you decided you felt like you actually belonged out there on that Tour? Was there a particular event you won or something like that?

DOUG FORD: You know, I was kind of a mean guy, and I thought I was as good as they was, and that's the way you had to think out there. You had to think you could beat whoever you were paired with. And I never felt that I didn't belong because I could play as well as they played. You know, you have to be out there and get involved in the game. I used to win more money before the tournament started gambling amongst players. We only had 15 money places, and you had 150 guys out there. We always had some good games on Monday and Tuesdays and Wednesdays. And you could win more money in those games than if you won the tournament. So you develop a part of you that says, I can beat anybody out here, and that's the attitude that I always had. I didn't fear anybody. Maybe Snead I feared a little.

Q. (Inaudible.)

DOUG FORD: Well, 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. 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.

Q. Kind of along those same lines, I was wondering what the largest amount is that you won in a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday match?

DOUG FORD: Well, you could win $300 or $400 every day, which would get you to the next town. It's like they used to say to me, boy, what pressure to make that putt. You know, a guy they'd show you on TV, a guy has got about a four-footer to win $800,000. If he misses he's going to get $500,000. 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. That's pressure. But everybody's pressures are different.

Q. Just one other thing. Obviously after winning in '57, the Masters, you got to go to the champions' dinner. Can you talk about what that was like all the years that you used to go to the champions' dinner?

DOUG FORD: Well, I think it's one of the highlights of my career. I've been going -- well, '57, and I've been at every dinner since then. Each one is different in who has won. I guess Mickelson's dinners have always been the best. He did a nice thing this year for Seve; he named the dinner after him. But the dinners are really -- I think there was 30 of us at this dinner this year, 30 champions, and it's a great get-together, and we've all known each other over the years. Of course these new guys, we don't know them, but by the time they leave, we know them.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much, Doug. We appreciate it.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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