PGA Tour Winner Gonzalez Dies at 59

Ernie Gonzalez of San Diego, who played several seasons on the PGA Tour, died in a Chicago hospital at the age of 59 from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report on

The left-handed Gonzalez, who was born in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista to a Mexican father and Puerto Rican mother, claimed his only PGA Tour victory in the 1986 Pensacola Open that was shortened to 36 holes because of heavy rain at Perdido Bay Country Club.

Gonzalez, who attended U.S. International University in San Diego, made an eagle and five birdies over his final nine holes of the second round at Perdido to shoot 9-under-par 63 and beat Joey Sindelar by one stroke. He called it the “probably the best round” he ever played.

“I was pretty nervous when I came out this morning,” said Gonzalez, after he joined Bob Charles of New Zealand and Sam Adams as the only southpaw winners on the PGA Tour at that time. “All we’ve been doing is sitting back and waiting. The waiting is tougher than the playing. I don’t know how to react.

“It’s a win, and I’m happy. Realistically, my goal was to keep my card. Getting the win is a surprise and a big break.”

Gonzalez turned pro in 1983, qualified for the PGA Tour in 1985 and the following year was his best on the circuit, as he made the cut in 13 of 25 tournaments. His second-best result was a tie for third with Ronnie Black, Phil Blackmar and Bobby Clampett, five shots behind winner Ben Crenshaw in the Vantage Championship in San Antonio, Texas.

After playing in 38 PGA Tour events between 1990 and 1998, Gonzalez played sparingly from 1999 to 2010, although he did play 44 events on what was then the Ben Hogan Tour (now the Korn Kerry Tour) between 1990 and 2002.

In 2009 at the age of 48, Gonzalez was working graveyard shifts in a Las Vegas beverage distributorship when he Monday qualified for the 2009 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.

After opening with a 4-over 75 at Summerlin, Gonzalez made the cut when equaled his career-best score of 63 in round two, making four birdies and and eagle on the back nine. He shot of 69-68 on the weekend to tie for 47th.

“I am a Christian,” Gonzalez told the Las Vegas Review-Journal afterward. “I am a believer. Whatever the plan God has for me, that’s what will happen.”

After turning 50, Gonzalez played in only one event on the PGA Tour Champions, missing the cut in the 2011 Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.

Gonzalez is survived by his wife, Judy, and a son, David.

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