˘ when I was very young in Puerto Rico, there was
a man selling vegetables and fruits. Everything sold for
pennies; he had a little box full of them. A wheelbarrow
was nearby, and I told my sister that one day I would have
a wheelbarrow like that full of silver dollars. Years later,
when I won a tournament in Las Vegas, they brought me a
wheelbarrow full of silver dollars.
˘ I was 7 when I saw a golf course for the first time.
Carrying bags sure looked easier than working on the
sugar plantation. I started out as an apprentice forecaddie
making 10 cents a day. I became a caddie when I was 9.
The greens were sand mixed with oil. When you were barefoot and holding the pin at noon, oh, was it hot.
˘ while in the U.s. Army at Fort Sill, I went to New York
to see my mother. I got to Grand Central and took a cab to
her apartment. I thought she was rich, but she was very
poor. I told her I would get her out of there. I would win
a tournament and buy her a house in Puerto Rico. Every
practice ball I hit back at Fort Sill was for her home.
˘ There wasn’t much to me—I was 117 pounds and
looked like a skeleton—but I shot a 66 and beat the post
champion out of six dollars. He said, “I’ve got an idea. You
and I will go around Oklahoma and play against anybody.”
One of those afternoons, I shot 58 and we won almost $400.
˘ In golf you have to have the best mind and the biggest
guts. You have to have guts to play golf. That’s why I admire
Arnold Palmer; if you put the flag on the Titanic, he’d go for
it. Al Geiberger should have won 50 tournaments. He never
shot at a pin in his life—he was conservative. Some guys
play for the money; other guys play for the trophy.
˘ when you shook Ben Hogan’s hand, it was like sandpaper.
˘ I was making an appearance at a Sears in North Carolina,
hitting 20-footers on a carpet. I had a dozen balls. This guy
walked in and said he could put in 11 out of 12. I told him to try.
He had the worst-looking grip I’ve ever seen on a putter. He
made all 12. “I don’t play golf,” he told me. “I can’t break 100.”
He said he was the Putt-Putt champion of the world. I knew
then that putting wasn’t golf, it was a state of mind.
˘ The long putter isn’t good for golf. It’s not a stroke, it’s
a pendulum. I won with a long putter in Albuquerque, but
I got back to my room and felt guilty. I swore I’d never do it
again. If I’m going to miss a putt or make a putt, it’s going
to be like a man. To me, [Angel] Cabrera won the Masters
last year. Adam Scott’s got to man up—I wouldn’t go across
the street to watch him. I think they should do what Tiger
Woods says: Make the putter the shortest club in the bag.
˘ My wife and I got robbed at gunpoint in our house, but
I don’t want to live my life hiding. My father used to say, “A
hero dies one time; a coward dies all the time.”
˘ I was a deadly iron player from 150 yards and in. If the
ball is on the left side of the fairway, you draw it. If it is on
the right side, you fade it. Think of the ball as a clock. Hit it
at 7 o’clock for a draw, 5 o’clock for a fade.
˘ I won at Tallahassee in ’79 after not winning for six years.
I used a putter I bought for $2 out of a barrel in the pro shop.
I played a practice round with Pete Brown on Tuesday, and
he found a four-leaf clover and gave it to me. I put it in my
money clip. That night I had pizza. The next day I was low
pro in the pro-am. It was pizza the rest of the week.
˘ Negativism is the sister of failure. If you’re negative, you fail. America has become a negative country. It’s
because our leaders are lawyers. The leaders should be
business people. Lawyers are necessary for different things,
of course, but they go to school to learn how to win arguments. America is divided now, probably more than it has
been since I first came on tour.
˘ I got out of some speeding tickets. I carried my driver’s
license in my golf bag, which was in the trunk, and an extra
dozen balls. Most of the troopers played golf.
˘ The tour hasn’t created another star. When Tiger Woods
is not in a tournament, it’s like “Gunsmoke” without Matt Dillon.
˘ Jack [Nicklaus] always felt comfortable around
me. He wanted me to help his son Jack II. But Jackie had a
problem: He was 6-4 but had short arms. If he would have
had long arms, he would have been a hell of a player.
˘ when I had to do the sword fight after making a
40-footer for a double bogey, I told my wife it was time to go.
˘ My grandparents on my father’s side lived to 114 and
115. After I had a heart attack [in 1998], my doctor said,
“You do what I say and you live. You do what you want and
you die.” I had smoked at least three packs a day for years.
˘ winning a tournament was great for my ego, but it
wasn’t good for my soul. When I do something for someone
is when I feel best. If you have something you don’t need,
give it to somebody who needs it. n
78, 30-time WiNNeR ON PGA AND chAmPiONS tOURS, DORADO, PUeRtO RicO ˘ interviewed by Bill Fields, Photographed by Jensen Larson
JUAN (CHI CHI)