Doug Sanders, & # 39; Peacock of the Fairways & # 39;, dies at 86

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Doug Sanders, who lit up the more sedate golf course of his time with his colorful clothes and became a fan favorite while he won 20 PGA Tour events, only to just shoot to win a major tournament, died Sunday in Houston. He was 86.

The PGA Tour confirmed his death.

Sanders was slim and handsome, he liked to talk to the galleries and delight fans with trick shots during warm-ups. He grew up in rural Georgia during the Depression, dressed in frayed garments, but became known as the "peacock of the fairways" for his stylish and brightly colored clothing.

Developing an excellent short game with his pitch and shots and low bangs with his irons, Sanders often stood on the brink of stardom. But a hot opponent or a flubbed shot would do him.

Most famously, he missed a three-foot leg for the 1970 British Open Championship, then lost to Jack Nicklaus with one shot in an 18-hole playoff. . He was previously second for the British and United States Opens and with the P.G.A. Championship.

Sanders had an unorthodox stance with a stiff-legged stance and a shortened backswing that he corrected as a young man to keep his shots under control, because time was precious. While on a nine-hole caddy course, he sneaked into the fairways with his brother James when no one was around to avoid the cost, and he had to make his round quickly.

"The fairways were only so wide and we had to keep the ball in the middle where we could find it and run in case anyone saw us on the course," he once told Sports Illustrated .

Sanders eventually used a powerful sequel. through and he generated strength by developing strength in his forearms, although he never formally trained.

He received a sports scholarship to play golf for the University of Florida, and in 1956 he became the first amateur to open the Canadian Open. He turned pro in 1957, achieved his first tournament win a year later at the Western Open, and finished second at the P.G.A. Championship in 1959.

He finished second at the United States Open in 1961 and at the British Open in 1966, when he finished in the top 10 with all four majors and won the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the Greater Greensboro Classic and the Jacksonville Open.

Sanders was about to finally conquer a major when he hit the 18th hole of the final round of the 1970 British Open on a fiery day on the Old Course in St. Andrews in Scotland.

He needed a par 4 on the 350-yard hole to win, he drove the ball about 75 yards in front of the cup and then hit a sand wedge that left him on the green about 35 feet away. His descent stopped about a meter from the hole. But he missed the par putt for the championship.

"On my second putt, I thought there was a pebble in front of me," he then told The Associated Press. "That's why I stopped halfway and went to see. It turned out to be a bit of tough grass. Maybe that exercise threw me and I missed the short one."

The next day, Nicklaus hit him in their playoff.

Sanders loved the nightlife, he organized show business celebrities in his Houston home, and he owned dozens of pants, shoes and sweaters, pharmacists sometimes empty prescription capsules the colors of which attracted him, and as he said to Golf Digest: "I taped the top half of an empty yellow capsule onto the bottom half of a blue one and then sent it to the factory where my shirts and pants can be colored the same way."

"I always wanted to wear the best," he told the Christian Science Monitor, "because my clothes set the stage for everything I did."

George Douglas Sanders was born on July 24 1933 in Cedartown, Georgia, where his father was a farmer and truck driver. At the age of 7, George chose cotton for a penny a day.

"There wasn't enough to eat," he recalled. "No doctors, lice in our hair, dirty hand-me-down clothes."

Golf allowed him to escape poverty, and his triumph at a national youth championship at the Chamber of Commerce led to his golf scholarship at the university

Sanders' collapse at the The last hole of the 1970 British Open was the beginning of a decline. He then won only one PGA Tour event, the 1972 Kemper Open. He took part in the Senior Tour (now the Champions Tour) in 1983 and took his only win when he captured the World Seniors Invitational that year.

Later he sponsored an international junior golf championship and the Doug Sanders Celebrity Classic. senior event in Houston.

Information about survivors was not immediately available.

Sander's lighthearted approach endeared him to fans, but he felt that some of his fellow competitors were not too happy about it.

"I think the gallery is getting as nervous as it sometimes is, and we should try to help them enjoy themselves," he once told Sports Illustrated. "Some guys just don't have a laugh. But they can't blame the rest of us for putting on a good show. That's what we're here for, aren't we?"

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