Doug Garwood: Old School, Young Heart and a Champion on the Champion’s Tour
One might say, in a manner of speaking, that PGA Champions Tour player Doug Garwood was born to play golf. That’s because on his eleventh birthday he asked his parents to give him a round of golf as a birthday present. The Van Nuys-born Garwood, however, had never played on a course before he and a couple of his friends bashed some birthday balls around Heroes GC off of Sepulveda Blvd. near the V. A. Hospital in West Los Angeles
“Evidently I took to golf right away as I kept on playing after that birthday round,” Garwood remembers. “My mom would drive me out to play at Balboa, Encino and other L.A. County courses, but you had to take a written test if you were under 13 to be allowed to play on the course without a parent. I wanted to play so badly that I remember when I was left alone in the office to take the test, I cheated by looking up some answers in the materials laying around there just so I could past that test and play.”
By 17, and playing regularly in local junior tournaments, Garwood had very honestly become Balboa GC’s Junior stroke and match play champion. Soon thereafter, though Chaminade College Prep High School in Canoga Park from which Garwood graduated in 1981 had no golf team, a host of college recruiters came knocking at his door.
“I had offers to play college golf at Iowa, USC and other schools, and though I wanted tjust o get away from home, I didn’t want to go so far that I couldn’t get back home easily. That’s why I chose Fresno State.” He graduated with a degree in English Literature from that university in 1986.
Garwood never regretted his decision to go to Fresno State, though the same might not be said for the schools he turned down.
“I also visited San Diego State during that recruiting period, but when I asked the people who ran the golf program there about a scholarship, they told me “we only gave scholarships to blue chip golfers.” In his four years playing for the Bulldogs, Garwood earned All America honors two times.
What’s more, during his senior year he found himself in San Diego again, playing for Fresno State in the San Diego State Invitational. Garwood won individual scoring honors and left the Aztec’s singing the blues over the golfer they let get away.
But careers, especially those in golf, rarely progress in straight lines. Suffice it to say Doug Garwood’s didn’t. After playing on the Nationwide Tour, now the Web.com Tour, from 2002-2005, Garwood wouldn’t play another round of professional golf until joining the PGA Tour Champions in 2013. His career would reach new heights three years later.
Grouped with two former Masters Champions, Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize, in the final round of play at the SAS Championship, Garwood would hold off the well-known senior players to pick up the win.
Garwood blistered the entire field that day with a round of 64 and earned his first victory on the Champions Tour. The win elicited effusive praise from another Hall of Famer, Lanny Wadkins, who called the action from the Golf Channel’s TV booth.
“He’s an extremely talented player,” Wadkins said of Garwood on air, “and he hits it a long way with a very, fluid, handsy ‘old school’ golf swing.”
“I wore all black that last day of the tournament,” Garwood recalls, “so I would be visually intimidating. Of course, this was just something in my own head, as Bernhard Langer wasn’t intimidated by me at all, but I needed to try to find something!”
When interviewed right after his final putt dropped, the emotionally drained yet clearly ecstatic Garwood answered with characteristic humor and wit, “Well, I guess it means I finally won a golf tournament.”
Yet in that slightly ironic and couched self-deprecating reply one can detect the outlines of the trails and trials on which Garwood tread to get to that victory lap.
With his stellar college and amateur career behind him one would have expected a player of Garwood’s quality to step right onto the PGA TOUR. He did indeed turn pro after school but, in his own words, “I was a party animal and wasn’t dedicated to the game.” This resulted in a series of “odd jobs,” as he calls them, for a good many years, though indeed Garwood would play a bit on some of the mini Tours in Southern California and its environs.
Things would began to finally turn golf-wise in Garwood’s direction as the millennium approached its pivot point. He led the field in the regional stage of U.S. Open Qualifying one year, began practicing and playing more seriously and more often, and won the 2001 Long Beach Open, which provided the money he needed to give the PGA Tour Qualifying School a shot at last.
Though he didn’t get his PGA Tour card in that event, it was then that he earned status on the Nationwide Tour, where he competed with considerable success from 2002 to 2005.
After recovering physically from a shoulder injury, Garwood kept his golf skills alive back on local mini Tours (such as the Golden State, Pepsi and Gateway Tours), where with the help of his friend and financial sponsor Lloyd Anderson he began playing and finding success regularly. At 49, he entered Champions Tour Qualifying School, earning his card.
With his win at the 2016 SAS Championship, and with just shy of three million dollars in earnings to date in his Champions Tour career, Garwood, now 54, is quite possibly playing the best golf of his career. He finished the 2017 season in the Top-25 of the Champions Tour Money list, earning himself a spot in the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs. His season included three Top-10 finishes, including one at the U.S. Senior Open Championship. In his first Charles Schwab Playoff event, Garwood earned a T5 finish at the Powershares QQQ Championship at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, Calif.