Chi Chi Rodriguez
Chi Chi Rodriquez was born on October 23, 1935, in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. He learned how to play golf while working as a caddie at a local club, and made his PGA Tour debut in 1960. A fan favorite for his outgoing nature and "toreador" dance, Rodriguez won eight PGA titles between 1963 and 1979. He went on to compile another 22 wins on the Senior Tour, along the way earning induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.
Juan Antonio "Chi Chi" Rodriguez was born on October 23, 1935, in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico. As a young boy, he went to work in the sugar cane fields with his father, who struggled to make enough money to feed a family of six children.
Rodriguez soon realized he could make money while exerting far less energy as a caddie at a local golf club. Hooked by the game, he fashioned his own club from a guava limb and began hitting rolled-up tin cans when away from the course. As a wiry teenager, he also developed into a promising pitcher on the baseball diamond.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, Rodriguez returned to Puerto Rico and became caddie master at the Dorado Beach Golf Club. He also continued to hone his impressive skills as a player, and eventually he successfully lobbied the club owner, Laurance Rockefeller, to back him with the funds he needed to start a professional career.
Rodriguez made his PGA Tour debut at the 1960 Buick Open. He didn't win, but he drew attention from fellow pros, who marveled at the 120-pound rookie's booming drives off the tee.
At the time, the stoic, gentlemanly game of golf had yet to experience someone like the flamboyant Rodriguez. He took to dropping his straw hat on top of the hole after sinking a birdie, an act that rankled some of his fellow competitors. Eventually he developed his signature "toreador" routine, in which he twirled and jabbed his club, to the delight of fans.
More than just a showman, Rodriguez proved he had what it took to outlast the best golfers in the world. He claimed his first PGA Tour win at the 1963 Denver Open Invitational, and added two more titles the following year. Rodriguez earned his eighth and final Tour win in style, shooting a tournament-record 19-under at the 1979 Tallahassee Open.
After struggling in his final few years on the PGA Tour, Rodriguez enjoyed immediate success upon qualifying for the Senior PGA Tour in 1985. He won three titles in 1986 and another seven the following year, including a record four in a row.
Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992, Rodriguez went on to notch an impressive 22 wins on the Senior Tour, until stepping away as a full-time player in 2004.
Charities and Personal
Always looking to give back to his community, the golfer in 1979 created the nonprofit Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation to help youngsters achieve academic, social and economic success. He also opened an orphanage in Mexico, and sponsors a charity golf tournament to support the children of FBI agents killed in the line of duty.
Rodriguez, who still watches and occasionally plays a round of golf, has been married to wife Iwalani since 1964.
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