Chi Chi Rodriguez: Locked Out

Chi Chi Rodriguez: Locked Out

Chi Chi Rodriguez’s fan appeal was one of the main reasons the senior tour thrived. Now, at 69, the Tour has turned its back on him, and he’s fighting mad.

I earned exempt status, but they took it away from me. They made a rule that says if you shoot five strokes higher than the field you lose your exemption. I’m checking with lawyers. I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who sued the Tour, but when they violate your rights you have to do whatever it takes.

[They] make rules any way they want. That rule doesn’t apply if you have a combined 50 wins on the PGA and Champions Tours, like Trevino, Nicklaus and Arnie.

It’s not like I was going to play 30 events. I deserve the right to leave the Tour on my terms. I earned that, and they took it away. I got kicked out. But I’m not going to stand for it.

I earned the privilege of riding a cart. I did more clinics on the Tour than all the other pros put together. Now they’ve banned carts. It’s anti-old–they want to get rid of the old guys!

The 1996 Masters was God’s punishment on Greg Norman for accusing Mark McCumber of cheating. You don’t do that. McCumber has three kids who probably took the heat at school. “Your daddy’s a cheater!” You don’t go to the press and say he cheated. That’s rotten.

[PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem quit saying hello to me five years ago because I’m outspoken. If I see something wrong, you can’t shut me up.

On the PGA Tour you’ve got Funk and Mickelson. Everybody else is an empty chair. They go to psychologists, but my dad told me, “Never give your brain to nobody. Your brain belongs to you.”

Some people think money makes you wealthy. The richest person I knew was Mother Teresa, and she never had anything. I spent 45 minutes with her in the Philippines. President Marcos asked me, “Would you like to meet the pope or Mother Teresa?” I said, “We’ll always have another pope.”

When I putted well, I just saw the ball and the hole. Then I got $50 to write an article on putting and started trying to figure out what I did. It ruined my putting. I finished ninth in the Open at Pebble Beach the year Jack won [1972]. I gave that tournament away. When Tommy Aaron won The Masters I had 39 putts the last day. I never could putt like those guys.

I’ve seen what happened in Iraq–and they could put me away for saying this–but I don’t agree with those wars. I voted for George W. Bush. The first time.

I used to jump the fence to play. I used to trespass. Now I’m trying to trespass again.

One and Done: When he’s not breathing fire, Chi Chi’s spouting one-liners. Here are some of his greatest hits.

• “I read the greens in Spanish, but I putt in English.”

• “The best wood in most amateurs’ bag is the pencil.”

• “There are too many gimmicks in golf. You could put horse manure on an ice cream cone with whipped cream and a cherry, and people will buy it.”

• After a too-firm putt: “That looked like Pat Buchanan going through Harlem.”

• When Lee and Jack win, it is good for golf. When I win, it’s better.”