Remembering Doug Ford: An all-time great who played fast and lived long
When Doug Ford passed away on Monday May 14, the primary focus put on him was that he was the oldest living Masters champion. But the distinction was even greater: Ford was the oldest-living winner of any major championship.
Ford was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, on August 6, 1922, roughly a half-year ahead of fellow World Golf Hall of Fame member Jack Burke Jr. Like Ford, Burke won a Masters and a PGA, and now he is the oldest-living past major winner. Burke was born on January 29, 1923. That's Ford on the left in the photo on the home page, having Burke put the Masters jacket on him in 1957.
Ford won 19 PGA Tour events and had similarities to Billy Casper, the under-appreciated titan who played in the shadow of the Big Three of Palmer, Player and Nicklaus.
It took many years for Ford to finally be elected to the WGHOF, but he had long since been fully appreciated by his peers. He was respected for his play and opinions; he was an important player in the formation of the senior tour, and served as a Player Director on the Senior PGA Tour Division Board.
He was notable for a few on-course habits. He was one of the fastest players in tour history; sometimes he'd force the issue a bit too much, and be well down the hole ahead of his playing companions, who felt like he was trying to rush them along too much. I recall seeing it first hand at the 1985 Golf Digest Commemorative senior event on the second hole at Newport Country Club when he was a half-a-hole ahead of the other guys in the group. Granted, he was walking in the rough to leave the fairway open, but such a brazen approach went with his reputation for being a straight-talker. But his opinions helped make him a leader among tour players. And he had an outstanding short game. He authored 11 articles for Golf Digest, mainly about the wedge, in the 1960s, a time when golfers devoured instruction from the touring pros in print. He authored “The Wedge Book” in 1963 with the magazine as publisher and its information is still priceless advice.
Born seven years before Arnold Palmer, Ford was easing out of his prime as Arnold was taking the game on his shoulders. But it’s setting facts correct for posterity to say that Doug Ford was one of the golf figures who had the game in excellent shape so Arnie could take it to greater heights.