Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, the 1993 Hispanic Heritage Awards Honoree for Sports, is a demonstrated golf champion, and an even greater champion to the Hispanic community and the youth he assists.
At seven years old, “Chi Chi” started to practice the game of golf while working as a caddy. By age 12, he scored a remarkable 67. After entering the Army, he continued practicing and became well-known in military golf tournaments. At age 25, “Chi Chi” set out on the PGA circuit, and won the Denver open just three years later. During his four-decade career, he won eight PGA Tours and 22 Champions Tours (formerly the PGA Senior Tour). In 1989, “Chi Chi” was honored with the United States Golf Association’s Bob Jones Award in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship, and in 1992, became the first Puerto Rican inducted in to the PGA’s World Golf Hall of Fame. He will always be known for his signature “matador” dance.
Known as one of the greatest showmen in sports history, “Chi Chi” has always been a public service minded man off the golf course. A brief encounter with Mother Teresa influenced his idea to establish the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation. The mission of this after-school program, which serves 650 children, has been to instill greater self-esteem in young people who have experienced abuse, delinquency and other hardships. The Foundation has received many honors, including the National Golf Foundation’s award for Best Youth Program and President Bush’s Points of Light award. “Chi Chi” has received countless honors for his humanitarian work, including induction into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s Robie Award for Humanitarianism and the Hispanic Achievement Recognition Award.
Since fully recovering from a heart attack in 1998, “Chi Chi” has been busy. Always the performer, he has toured as a speaker for a number of professional bureaus, and made a cameo appearance in the comedy Welcome to Mooseport. In 2005, his brother and he opened “El Legado,” a golf resort in Guayama, Puerto Rico. His mission for the resort is to employ locals, accommodate the average golfer, teach golf to kids and possibly discover the next “Chi Chi” Rodriquez.