Jack Nicklaus was about to make the cut at
the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, and several
reporters, present company included, head-
ed out to the 18th hole to watch him finish
up before his usual post-round media scrum
near the scoring tent to discuss his round,
or anything else on his mind. At the time,
Nicklaus also was still doing some work for
ABC Sports. A few minutes into our post-
round session, a young man walked up be-
hind him and whispered that his presence
was now needed in the TV tower overlook-
ing the 18th hole. Nicklaus told him he’d
be right there, and continued answering
questions from the 10 to 15 writers gathered
around. Another few minutes passed, and
the same young man interrupted Nicklaus
again, this time telling him he was needed
RIGHT NOW!!!! Nicklaus was not happy.
He shot the poor lad as perturbed a look
as I’ve ever seen cross his face, save for a
bearish reaction to a three-putt bogey, and
told him (I’m paraphrasing here), “Look,
young man, some of these guys have been
covering me for my entire career, so you
just go back and tell them I’ll be there when
I’ve finished answering every one of their
questions.” As the chastened kid tip-toed
away, Nicklaus answered another four or
five questions until none were left. With a
wave of his hand and smiling broadly, he
then headed toward the tower. It’s a scene
I’ll never forget, one that cemented Nick-
laus’ place on my personal wall of fame as
the No. 1 all-time gracious, accommodat-
ing, high-profile athlete, reinforced every
single time I’ve ever been in his presence
over the next two decades. Colleagues who
have chronicled his career far longer than I
ever did will tell you to a man/woman that
it has always been that way. Jack Nicklaus
never stormed off a golf course in anger
and stiffed the waiting press corps. His news
conferences and telephone conference calls
last until every question is answered, usually
with a well thought-out response. He once
even called me from his private jet as he was
flying to Washington to serve as a Presidents
Cup captain. Knowing I was probably on a
tight deadline, he was thoughtful enough to
apologize for not getting back to me sooner.
No apology necessary. Ever. Many thanks,
Jack, and many more happy returns.
It was little more than an hour after Jack Nicklaus had lost to
Lee Trevino in the 1972 Open at Muirfield. His disappointment
must have been dire. Having been six behind Trevino and five
behind Tony Jacklin after three rounds, he had rebounded
with a closing 66, which left him no more than one to the bad.
Now, though, he was out playing tennis — a mixed-doubles
— on the court at the adjacent Greywalls Hotel. He was playing with (wife) Barbara and the couple were combining well
and enjoying lots of laughs. Jack may or may not have got rid
of a few of his frustrations with the odd hard-hit serve and
smash — but what a way to move on. Try to imagine one of
the moderns hanging around to “enjoy” himself after such a
narrow major miss.
A couple of years ago, I was riding around the golf course at Scioto Country Club
in Columbus with Jack Nicklaus when he stopped suddenly at the tee of the par- 3
17th. “I got my first hole-in-one here,” he said. “I was 13 and playing Billy Cowman in
the junior club championship. It was a 36-hole final, and in the morning Bill hit his
tee shot to within a couple of feet. But I knocked mine in, so he lost the hole even
though he had made a 2. That afternoon, Bill hit his ball to within two feet again,
only this time he made birdie to my three. And as he walked off the green, I heard
his father say to him, “I told you that you’d eventually win that hole if you kept making two.’” One hole later, at the 18th tee, Jack reflected on his wedding day a few
years later, when he played a round with some friends on the morning of his nuptials
to Barbara Jean Bash. “I said to the guys in the group, ‘This is my last drive as a single
man, and I am going to hit it as far as I can,’” explained Nicklaus, who at the time
was the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. “But I ended up topping the ball into the
creek in front of the tee.”
Sophomore year of college, 1986.
I filled in for a friend over the final
Baseball-addled brains. My first
rounds. When I arrived, the all-
stars were gone. Baseball maga-
zines were scattered everywhere
as the Ferra Gamos, Carl Marks,
King Tuts and others bid on the
chaff, players too young or too old
to make a difference. My job was
to fill out the roster of the Manuel
Will Clark, $1.
We were junkies for all sports all
the time, so The Masters was on
TV, of course. Jack Nicklaus was
working the back nine, crafting
that 30. Birdies at 10, 11 and 13.
A bogey at 14.
Damn … Shawon Dunston, $2.
Then the real magic. An eagle at
Come on, Jack!!
15. The 5-iron on No. 16 that came
downhill to about three feet from
the hole, setting up birdie.
We were riveted.
On No. 17, the 18-foot putt to
take sole possession of the lead.
The club in the air, followed by
The apartment off 34th Street in
Gainesville, Fla. erupted.
Senior Correspondent Lewine Mair
Senior Correspondent John Steinbreder