Catching up with Chi Chi Rodriguez


COCO BEACH, Puerto Rico -- Chi Chi Rodriguez, now 76, still steals the show during Puerto Rico Open week. Since the event debuted on the PGA Tour schedule in 2008, it has made the most of its place on the schedule opposite a World Golf Championship event. In 2012, Ryo Ishikawa highlighted a strong field of tour pros that also included Angel Cabrera and Ryder Cuppers Jeff Overton and Boo Weekley.

We caught up with Rodriguez, who is still very active in mentoring Puerto Rico's aspiring golfers on Saturday in the Triple-S hospitality suite at the 18th hole at Trump International Golf Club

Brandon Tucker: Chi Chi, how often are you playing golf these days?

Chi Chi Rodriguez: I play two or three times a week. I play a lot at Dorado and Trump International. I play from 6,300 yards, and I break my age every time I play!

BT: What are your thoughts on the Puerto Rico Open since it came to the PGA Tour in 2008 (and is financially committed for the next two years)?

CR: I'm impressed. Not only is it great from tourism, and the people around the world can see where I was born and where raised, but also the behavior of the young pros. I think (golfers) are the best behaved athletes, and our kids can come and watch who the real role models in this world are.

BT: Are there any players in particular that you think are especially good for the future of the game?

CR: I think Ricky Fowler, if he starts winning, is going to be very, very good for the tour. But they're all well behaved, and the kids can look at all of them and say, 'You know what? I want to be like him.'

Chi Chi and Krissy Ortiz

Chi Chi Rodriguez played a 'farewell round' in front of his native fans on Sunday at the Puerto Rico. He was paired with 14-year-old Caribbean Champion Krissy Ortiz with her father Ruben on the bag. (Photos by Francisco Lopez/Puerto Rico Open). 

BT: Is there anything about the professional tours today that you'd like to see change?

CR: The only thing I don't care about is that the foreign tours have quotas against the Americans. Only four of us can play in their countries. You have almost every Australian playing the PGA Tour, but their tour has quotas. Our boys should be able to go and play their tour and get in the world rankings and come back and play the PGA Tour.

Also, the colleges are taking foreign players, and the foreign players get 100 percent aid while Americans only get 80 percent. I wouldn't give a college a penny that does that. It's hard for Americans to get into college, how hard do you think it is for Puerto Ricans?

BT: Do junior golfers have access to affordable golf and good instruction on Puerto Rico?

CR: This particular course, Trump International, is giving the chance to poor kids. They can play here for nothing. When I opened in my golf course in Guayama (El Legado Golf Resort), I made about six kids members, and that way, nobody could pick on them. They all became good players. None of them want to be on tour, most of them want to be doctors, but they have game. My intention was that they don't have to be touring pros. They can be doctors, lawyers or engineers. They can get an education.

BT: The Dorado Resort, where you're the ambassador, appears to have a lot going on with the renovation of the East Course and a new hotel.

CR: What's so good about Dorado is that the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve will be the first six-star hotel (in the Caribbean). The sky is the limit. That's going to be a beautiful hotel, and you can see what they've done to the golf course, too; it's beautiful.

BT: Are there any places you would recommend first-timers to Puerto Rico visit?

CR: There's a town called Camuy. I'd like people to go see the caves there (Rio Camuy Cave Park) underground. It gets very cold down there. I've been a couple times. It's a great experience. I'd also recommend visitors to go to our rain forest, our beaches and to go to old San Juan. There's always something to see.

BT: Today there are an estimated 4 million iguanas in Puerto Rico, but that wasn't always the case, was it?

CR: I was the pro at Rio Mar for 12 years and never saw an iguana. Then I went back to Dorado, and my brother stayed as the pro. One day, I called him from the tour and he said, 'Chi Chi, I saw the strangest thing: a 3- or 4-foot iguana swimming in the lake!'

I said, 'Thank you, little brother,' and I hung up the phone and called a psychiatrist friend of mine and said, 'You know, something is wrong with my brother. You go and see him because he says he said he saw a giant iguana and I'm worried about him.'

So he went down to see him and called me back and said, 'There's not one iguana but two of them,'

So I told him, 'Now you need help, too!'

More on Puerto Rico Golf: Brandon Tucker plays a week of golf on the island during Puerto Rico Open week.