Tuesday, December 22

2015 Rewind: Jack Nicklaus Turns 75

(The following piece originally published on January 21, 2015.)

Jack Nicklaus in his North Palm Beach office in May 2013.
JACK NICKLAUS WAS BORN ON THIS day in 1940 in Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He took up golf in earnest at age 10, putting in long hours at Scioto Country Club, where Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open.

Compared to others, the game came easily to Nicklaus, and he won often at every level before experiencing his first prolonged slump in the late 1960s. Even then the man who would become known as the Golden Bear won golf tournaments, although he did have to endure a majors drought from the summer of 1967 to the summer of 1970.

The drought ended when Jack beat Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff to win the British Open at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland. It was his eighth major title. He would go on to win 18 major championships as a professional, with the last one, the 1986 Masters, being arguably the most dramatic and most memorable. Nicklaus slipped into the Green Jacket for a record sixth time at age 46.

I interviewed Jack at his North Palm Beach office in May 2013 for my book about the 1969 Ryder Cup, DRAW IN THE DUNES. The conversation strayed into several areas, including all those seconds in majors (19). Here's what he told me.
ME: When I think of your career, you played smart golf and didn't make as many mistakes. 
First professional check for $33.33 at the L.A. Open.
Nicklaus tied for 50th place.
JACK: That's probably why I finished second a lot, because I didn't make a lot of the dumb mistakes but somebody else just happened to play better that week, which is OK. I never had a problem with ever finishing second, if I had prepared properly and played the best I thought I could play, and somebody played better, then well done, that’s congratulations. But if I do something stupid, like I did at [Royal] Lytham, and bogeyed the last two holes to lose a tournament, or if I would have missed the putt [on the final hole] at the [1969] Ryder Cup, that would have been stupid. Those are the kind of things that really, really sit in your mind and you say, "Why would you ever do something like that?" Because you have total control over it, or at least you hope you have total control over yourself. That's what you're trying to do. 
Happy 75th birthday, Jack Nicklaus.

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