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Personality of the Month – Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez – One of the most well liked golf


Fac ut gaudeam
Supporting Member
Sep 1, 2004
I love to research Golfers from the past and present that make up this game. I’ve posted a few threads on these personalities, but one that I have really taken a liking to is old Chi Chi. What a dude! As well as “walking the walk” on the links, this guy seesm to have done a lot for kids and the lesser well off folk. He has had to fight his way to the top, and this rings though loud and clear in his quotes.


Juan "Chi-Chi" Rodriguez
October 23,1935 - present
Birthplace: Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
Executive summary: Won 8 regular PGA tours
Military service: US Army (entered at age 19)
Wife: Iwalani Lum-King (Hawaiian, m. circa 1965)
Daughter: Donnette

Juan “Chi-Chi” Rodriguez is one of the great showmen in sports history. In a career which spans four decades, Chi-Chi won 22 Senior PGA Tour victories, 8 regular PGA Tours and has career earnings of over $7 million dollars. Chi-Chi's incredible career includes winning PGA tournaments four times in each of the 1990-91 seasons and was the only winner of back to back events in 1991. He became the first player on the Senior Tour to win the same event three consecutive years, he set a senior tour record with eight consecutive birdies en route to a win at the 1987 Silver Pages Classic, represented Puerto Rico on 12 World Cup Teams, won the Hispanic Achievement Recognition Award ('86) and Replica's Hispanic Man of the Year ('88) and was inducted into PGA's World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

He was one of six children, born in Rio Piedras, just outside San Juan in 1935 and as a young boy helped his father work the hot, dusty sugar cane fields. His father worked 14 hours a day, six or seven days a week, as a laborer and a cattle handler. "He never made more than $18 a week," says Rodriguez.

To help his family, Rodriguez took a job when he was seven, carrying water to the field workers on a sugar plantation. One day, he wandered near a golf course and thought caddying would be easier than carrying water. Chi Chi was always the smallest kid, "the last kid picked in games," he says, but his wee stature didn't impair his golfing prowess. He started playing golf at the age of nine, and initially learned how to play golf with clubs fashioned out of guava tree limbs and tin cans hammered into balls. Later a member let him borrow his clubs. At 12, he scored a remarkable 67, which made him think golf might be his way out of poverty.

Rodriguez caddied until he entered the Army at age 19. By the time he was released from service, he was well-known in military golf tournaments. He began working as an assistant golf pro at Puerto Rico's Dorado Beach resort in 1957. There he received his first formal lessons in golf from the club's pros. At the age of 25, he set out on the golf circuit. Three years after he started, he won the Denver Open. Trophies and winnings began piling up. He bought his mother a house and gave financial help to his brothers and sisters.

It has been said that pound for pound Chi-Chi is the longest hitter in the history of golf. At 5-7 and weight ranging from 112-130 pounds, the wiry Puerto Rican has at times driven a golf ball over 350 yards. He has consistently been at over 250 yards throughout his career. He became known for his eye-hand coordination and imagination skills that have helped him overcome all kinds of obstacles.

Chi-Chi's talent extend beyond what he does on the golf course, he has a strong desire to make a positive impact on today's youth. He has founded the "Chi-Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation" in Clearwater Florida which is a home to troubled and abused youngsters. Chi-Chi's philosophy is clear, he wants to give kids a chance to succeed. "I figure kids are the future. If I made it, anybody can do it. I think I can be a good role model for them because they could look at me and say, "look, he's a small guy, he was poor and he worked hard and made it."

Where did “Chi Chi” come from?
Like all boys in Puerto Rico, I dreamed of becoming a baseball player. My idol was Chi Chi Flores, who was known for his hustle. I ran around the ballpark telling everyone, "I'm Chi Chi Flores, I'm Chi Chi Flores." So they started calling me Chi Chi. I haven't been called Juan since I was 12 years old.

What was your first PGA Tour paycheck?
The Buick Open in Michigan in 1960. I finished 16th. I got $465 and I thought I was the richest man on earth.

What was your best money-ranking finish on the PGA Tour?
I finished 9th one year and I made $48,000. That was in 1964. I qualified for the Ryder Cup team but they didn't let me play. That's another story.

What's the most money you've won in a friendly round of golf?
I'm the kind of guy that plays for money with my friends. I don't play (for money) with strangers, I play with my friends and we have fun. And actually a lot of times the one who wins the money winds up losing because he has to pay for the food and the drinks and the music. He has to pay for all that.

Have you won more money from Lee Trevino or has Trevino won more money from you?
No, I never gamble with Lee. You think I'm crazy?

Who is your favorite playing partner?
When we played partners against two other guys, I used to like to play with Doug Sanders as my partner. He was the best money player in the history of golf.

Who is the most underrated golfer?
Bill Casper. He won 51 titles and nobody knows about him. And the most underrated human being ever, he's one of the best human beings of all time. And the best putter ever.

What's your favorite course - if you had only one more round to play, where would you play it?
I would probably play Winged Foot in New York.

What is your dream foursome - Chi Chi and which other three people?
Well, I’d like to play with that lady (Martha) Burk (laughing), she'd be one of them. And probably Arnold Palmer and maybe Jimmy Carter. If he plays golf. I admired Jimmy Carter more than any man that ever served in the White House. Not as the greatest president, but as the greatest man who ever served.

Do you have any superstitions?
Oh yeah, I don't open the umbrella in my room, I don't put my hat on the bed, I don't mark my ball with a dowel. Those are all superstitions. People say, 'Well why are you that way?' I say, 'I haven’t done too bad.'

What's the best thing about your golf career?
Well, I met Mother Teresa through golf and I spent 45 minutes with her and those have been the best 45 minutes of my life. I was in the Philippines, I was a good friend of President Marcos, and the pope was there and Mother Teresa was there. And he (Marcos) said, 'Who would you rather meet, Mother Teresa or the pope?' And I said, 'We'll always have another pope, we'll never have another Mother Teresa,' so I met her. And I've never seen eyes like hers. Her eyes were nothing but love.

Where did the sword dance come from?
When we were caddies we used to sneak on to the golf course real early. One day I was playing a match with a friend for a nickel. I make a 20-foot putt, and a toad jumps out of the hole, and the ball, of course, comes out with him. My friend wouldn't count the putt. So when I turned pro, one of my gimmicks was to throw my hat over the hole so the ball wouldn't pop out. The galleries loved it, but some of the other pros complained that I was damaging the hole. Joe Dey asked me to find some other gimmick, so that's when I came up with the sword dance. The sword dance is a drama. I am a matador. The hole is a bull. When the ball goes in the hole I've already slain the bull, so the sword fight with the putter isn't necessary except to flaunt my skill. I wipe the blood from the sword with my handkerchief and return the sword to its scabbard. Then I go to the next hole and look for another bull.


Fac ut gaudeam
Supporting Member
Sep 1, 2004
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #2
Other Chi Chi quotes and one-liners

Other Chi Chi quotes and one-liners

"Look for the guy with the new grip on his ball retriever or head covers on his irons." - On finding someone you can beat

"Sure, I'm making a lot of money now, but years ago the IRS would send me get-well cards."

"Most people will miss a putt for nothing. A little money, and the weak are certain to miss."

On what club he would play with during a 1-club round: "I would play with a 4-iron. I can hit it anywhere from 110 yards to 210 yards. I can hit high or run it low. Bend it right or turn it left. And if there's money on the game, and you are betting me I can't beat you with just one club, then I can use my 4-iron to lift your wallet out of your back pocket, too."

"I always used to wear green on Sunday because that's when they hand out the checks and green is the color of money. If you ever see a color picture of me in book or some place in a magazine and I am wearing green, then you can take it to the bank - the picture was taken on a Sunday."

"A three putt is just about the worst thing in golf. I hate them. I could make the longest putt you could think of, and if it's a third putt or for bogey, I can't bring myself to do the sword dance."

"Until Tiger Woods came along, I thought Jack Nicklaus was the greatest player ever. Sam Snead was the best ball striker I ever saw. ... Ben Hogan was second with Byron Nelson pretty close to both of them. ... But Tiger Woods, he is the complete package. He has the intelligence of Nicklaus, the guts of Arnold Palmer, the beauty of Sam's swing, the shot-making ability of Hogan and the patience and temperament of Gandhi."

"You have certain basic things that you must do to hit good shots, and there are too many gimmicks going around now, guys making fortunes teaching people junk. You could put horse manure on an ice cream cone with whip cream and a cherry on top, and people will buy it if a top-30 Tour pro is selling it."

"... If you buy a book on golf instruction buy the thinnest book you can find. The thinner the book, chances are the easier and more elementary the instruction. It can do one of two things: help you more or hurt you less. Both are good compared to the alternative."

"I've heard people say putting is 50 percent technique and 50 percent mental. I really believe it is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking. See, but that adds up to 140 percent, which is why nobody is 100 percent sure how to putt."

"The first time I played the Masters, I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off. I shot the happiest 83 of my life."

“It's a custom in Puerto Rico for the father to have his sons light his cigarettes and hand them to him. That's how I started smoking when I was 10. I smoked three to four packs a day for close to 50 years, then quit. A year later the doctor said I had the lungs of a 15-year-old. Genetics are everything. My Uncle Jesus consumed a bottle of rum and five packs of cigarettes a day, and he lived to be 106.”

“God gave me fast hands. I was sitting at a bar one time with John Brodie. Out of the corner of his eye he saw my hands flash in the air. "What was that?" he asked. "I'm catching flies," I said. "If you caught a fly out of mid-air, I'll give you $100," John said. I opened both hands and tossed two flies on the table. I said, "Better make that $200."

“The best money player I ever saw was Doug Sanders. Here's how good Doug was: In 1964, I was practicing alongside Doug when a spectator called out, "Sanders, you don't hit it as straight as people say you do." Doug turned to the guy and pulled a sheaf of hundred-dollar bills from his money clip. "I'll hit one ball with this driver," he said, "and bet you a thousand dollars my caddie doesn't have to move more than two steps to catch it." The guy says, "You're on." Doug makes the guy show his thousand dollars. Then he hits the ball 255 yards, and the caddie catches it on one hop. His feet don't move. Doug takes the guy's $1,000 and goes back to practicing like nothing happened.”

“I had to jump a fence to play golf as a kid. The greenskeeper used to take shots at us with a gun. I don't think he was ever trying to hit us. He used to hit the trees above us with the bullets. That's one of the reasons I play so fast. “

“And people think that rich people have it easier. It's a fallacy. Poor people have it easier because a poor person never has anything to prove. If you're born rich, you have to prove yourself forever. Me, if I lose everything I have tomorrow, I always know I can sleep on the floor because I've done it before“.

“The average golf course still plays 99 strokes per round for amateurs. And if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia were playing with hickory shafts, they'd still shoot 20-under. They're better than we were. The guys that keep saying that it's the equipment, it's time [for them] to give credit where credit is due. These guys work out, they have vitamin enhancements, they work harder at the game”


Fac ut gaudeam
Supporting Member
Sep 1, 2004
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #3
Chi Chi

Some photos...


The golfer fka ST Champ
Aug 31, 2004
Nice work IG.

It's hard to beat a good rags to riches story, especially about a character like him.


Well-Known Member
Sep 6, 2005
I saw one of his performances at Turtle Bay in Oahu. It was absolutely amazing and I didn't even really care for golf at the time. Making two golf balls hit in mid air, are you kidding me?


Well-Known Member
Aug 27, 2004
I've seen Cheech several time on the senior tour...always smiling and whenever he makes a putt - he does that 'air sword' technique with his putter...a great guy indeed..

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