Ernie Gonzalez, Former PGA Tour Golfer, Dies at Age 59 from Alzheimer's Disease

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 17, 2020

The flags are blowing as the wind picks up on the grandstands on the 12th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Former PGA Tour golfer Ernie Gonzalez died at the age of 59 due to complications related to Alzheimer's disease.

The PGA Tour released the news on Gonzalez, who turned professional in 1983. He joined the tour two years later.

Gonzalez's golfing claim to fame is his win at the 1986 Pensacola Open, making him the third-ever left-handed golfer to win a PGA Tour event. Per the Associated Press, he made five birdies and an eagle on the final nine holes to card an eight-under 63.

He shot a 14-under 128 in 36 holes during the rain-shortened tournament. The 1986 season also proved to the best of Gonzalez's career, as he registered three top-10 finishes, including a third-place result at the Vantage Championship.

Gonzalez played PGA Tour events through 2010 and provided one final highlight during the tail end of his career when he made the cut at the 2009 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, finishing tied for 47th at the age of 48.

The PGA Tour provided more info:

"After opening with a disappointing, 4-over 75 in the first round at TPC Summerlin, Gonzalez shaved 12 strokes off his score in the second round, firing a 63 that included a wild stretch of four birdies, a double bogey and an eagle on the back nine that moved him inside the cutline. He went on to shoot weekend rounds of 69-68 to tie for 47th."

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports offered the following tribute to Gonzalez:

"Sad to learn of the death of Ernie Gonzalez, a winner on the PGA Tour and a Las Vegas resident who was a terrific guy. He was only 59 and suffering from Alzheimer's. So sad."

Gonzalez, who worked at a beverage distributorship in Las Vegas, also received kind words from freelance golf writer Brian Hurlburt, who said he "was a mainstay at TPC Summerlin and always there to lend a hand for charity events around town, when asked."