Dale Douglass, the University of Colorado’s first golfer to play on the PGA Tour, passed away in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a long illness Wednesday morning; he was 86.
At CU, he was a three-time, first-team all-conference performer, in the Big Seven in 1956 and the Big Eight in 1958 and 1959. He finished eighth, seventh and fifth, respectively in the league championships those years and remains one of just five Buffaloes to finish in the top 10 three times in a conference championship.
He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, the second golfer after Hale Irwin to be so honored.
“Dale was so very proud of being from Fort Morgan and the University of Colorado,” Irwin said Wednesday evening from Akron, where he is set to compete in a pro-Am. “He wore the school colors proudly. Personally, I’ve lost a close friend I’ve have for some 57 years. More importantly, golf has lost a real gentleman and a man who really championed golf throughout the country. 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 won three times on the PGA Tour (with three playoff losses) and was one of the early players to have great success on the Senior Tour (since renamed the Champions Tour). He won 11 times on that circuit, including one major, as he defeated the legendary Gary Player by one stroke in the 1986 U.S. Senior Open in Columbus, Ohio. He also had 26 runner-up finishes to go with his 11 victories.
He had four top 20 finishes in golf’s majors: in 1969, he tied for 13th in the U.S. Open and for 19th in the Masters; he tied for 18th in the 1974 U.S. Open (when Irwin won) and tied for 17th in the 1975 PGA Championship. He became just the fifth player in history to play in 500 tournaments when he reached the mark in 2003 and won over $9 million as a professional.
He had turned pro in 1960, earned his PGA Tour card in 1963 and joined the Senior Tour in 1986 where he would become a fixture for over 20 years, playing in exactly 600 Senior/Champions Tour events, with 151 top 10 finishes along with 283 in the top 25 (he made the cut an astonishing 567 times).
Colorado athletic director Rick George, when he was the president of the Champions Tour from 2003-08, had the opportunity to get to know Douglass.
“Dale was a class act,” George said. “He was a true gentleman in every respect and carried himself on and off the course with grace and humility. He had a long and successful career, not only playing the game, but giving back to it as well.”
Born Dale Dwight Douglass on March 5, 1936 in Wewoka, Okla., he grew up in Fort Morgan, Colo., where he graduated high school before enrolling at CU in the fall of 1955. He was preceded in death by his wife, Joyce and is survived by her sister, Barbara Lebsock of Highlands Ranch. Services are pending but will be held in Colorado Springs.