Even posthumously, Dale Douglass paying it forward in Colorado golf
By Gary Baines – 4/27/2023
As anyone who ever met him will attest, Dale Douglass was a heck of a nice guy — and a giving person in a variety of ways.
A winner of three PGA Tour events and 11 PGA Tour Champions titles — including the 1986 U.S. Senior Open, where he bettered Gary Player by a stroke — Douglass proved that throughout his life.
And recently, he’s continued to show it — even posthumously, having passed away last July at age 86.
For instance, not long before he died, Douglass made a very generous donation to the now-newly-opened Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor — as he was an inductee in 1977. He also gave a considerable amount of memorabilia to the museum.
And the University of Colorado — where Douglass played golf in the 1950s and from which he graduated — provides an even bigger example of his generosity.
Douglass established an endowment — to the tune of more than $1.5 million — for the CU men’s golf team that will provide ongoing support of the program.
“Dale and his wife Joyce (who also attended CU) had an unconditional, lifetime love of the University of Colorado and the men’s golf team,” CU coach Roy Edwards told CUBuffs.com’s Neill Woelk in a story published this week. “Their dedication to giving to many organizations is aspirational and inspirational. The endowment he and Joyce funded over their lifetimes has provided security for the long-term future of the men’s golf team. We miss them greatly and their legacy will be felt by generations of Buff golfers to come.”
Douglass, who grew up in Fort Morgan and lived in Boulder and Castle Pines as an adult (in addition to the Phoenix area), was a Kappa Sigma fraternity brother of Robert Redford at CU during the mid-1950s. (Redford only attended CU for a year and a half, but was born the same year as Douglass, 1936.) Douglass played for the CU golf team from 1956-59, an era during which the Buffs competed mainly in dual matches, and he accumulated an impressive 30-9 record in those matches. Three times in those four years, he earned all-conference honors. To make ends meet while at CU, he sold programs at home sporting events, ushered during football and basketball games and then cleaned up after.
“Dale was so very proud of being from Fort Morgan and the University of Colorado,” fellow former Buff golfer Hale Irwin said after Douglass’ death last summer. “He wore the school colors proudly. .. He did so much for a lot of people, particularly in Colorado. There was never a bad word you heard from anyone about Dale Douglass.”
Douglass’ stature was such that when CU started a Golf Hall of Fame in 1989, Douglass joined Irwin, Steve Jones and Les Fowler as the inaugural inductees. And he was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, with only Irwin preceding him as as an inductee from the golf program. Besides going into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1977, he was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, joining Irwin as the first two top-level male golfers to be enshrined there. And just a few years ago, Douglass and Jennifer Kupcho were named the first recipients of the Hale Irwin Medals, which recognize outstanding Colorado golfers who “exhibit competitiveness, resiliency and a proven record of winning.”
Douglass was arguably the first golfer who grew up in Colorado to have considerable success on the PGA Tour level.
Over a tour career that lasted more than a half-century, Douglass competed in a remarkable 1,131 tournaments between the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. To put that into perspective, Douglass is in the top 10 on the all-time list of career starts, coincidentally in the same neighborhood as Irwin (1,142).
An even 600 of Douglass’ tour starts are on PGA Tour Champions, one of the highest totals in history.
In addition, Douglass holds the record for most appearances in the U.S. Senior Open, with 26 — one more than Arnold Palmer. At age 69, he made the cut in the Senior Open in 2005, finishing 37th. He’s also the youngest winner of the Senior Open, prevailing at 50 years, 3 months and 24 days in 1986. For his performance that same year, he remains the only wire-to-wire leader — no ties — at the U.S. Senior Open
It was during his days on the Champions Tour that Douglass became acquainted with current CU athletic director Rick George when the latter was president of the senior circuit.
“When I told him I had spent four years on the CU football staff, he quickly exhibited his love and fondness for his alma mater,” George said. “He followed our programs closely, volunteered his time with our golf team on several occasions and was simply a total class act. Dale was well known for his long playing career and similarly giving back to it as well, and his donation back to the program where he flourished as a collegian is truly an example of that.”
Douglass during his CU golf days in the 1950s.
After graduating from CU, here’s some of what Douglass accomplished during a 50-plus years on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions:
— During the prime of his PGA Tour career — when he won three times in ninth months in 1969-70 — he earned a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1969, when the Americans and Great Britain & Ireland tied 16-16 in England. Douglass is one of the less than 200 American golfers who have ever competed in the Ryder Cup.
— Less than 40 players have won 11 or more times on PGA Tour Champions, and Douglass is one of them, having captured 11 senior titles from 1986 to ’96, and placing second seven times. In addition, he teamed with Charles Coody to claim three titles in the Legends of Golf.
— Douglass remains one of the youngest winners in the history of PGA Tour Champions, having captured the 1986 Vintage Invitational at age 50 years, 18 days. He also is one of the relatively rare players who have won on PGA Tour Champions after age 60 as he captured the title in the 1996 Bell Atlantic Classic about four months after his 60th birthday. All told, Douglass shot his age or better eight times on the senior circuit.
— In his magical season of 1986, Douglass won four times on PGA Tour Champions, including arguably the most prestigious event in all of senior golf, the U.S. Senior Open, at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, where he beat Player, a World Golf Hall of Famer, by one stroke. Douglass finished third on the senior money list in ’86.
Douglass (left) receiving one of the inaugural Hale Irwin Medals from Irwin himself in 2019.
How hot was Douglass when he started on the Senior Tour? He led or shared the lead after eight of his first 10 rounds on that circuit.
For the five months after turning 50 on March 5, 1986, Douglass notched three victories — including that U.S. Senior Open — and posted a remarkable 13 top-10 finishes and 10 top 6s.
Besides his victories on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, Douglass has several notable wins in Colorado and regionally. That includes the 1978 Jerry Ford Invitational in Vail; the 1983 Frontier Airlines Pro-Am at The Broadmoor Golf Club, where he beat PGA Tour veterans Billy Casper and Don January; the 1983 Colorado PGA Professional Championship; and the 1965 Arizona Open. He was also low amateur at the 1959 Wyoming State Open.
“For all of his many professional accomplishments, he was one of the most humble and respectful people I have ever known,” CU senior director of development Scott McMichael said. “Dale never forgot the opportunity awarded to him to play golf for coach (Les) Fowler and to obtain a top quality education from the University of Colorado. He always thought it was important to pay it forward.”
About the Author: Gary Baines owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com