News Column

Jack Nicklaus Recalls His Amateur Days

Feb 18 2013

Brian Biggane


It's a treat for golfers any time Jack Nicklaus gets into storytelling mode, and members of the Palm Beach County Golf Association had that experience at their annual dinner at Frenchman's Reserve.

Golf Digest senior writer Tim Rosaforte served as emcee and, with many of the top amateurs in the area in the audience, got Nicklaus talking about his own career before he turned pro in 1962 at age 22.

His memory of dates, tournaments and even club selection was uncanny considering he was recollecting events that occurred more than 50 years ago. Some of the highlights:

On first coming to realize he had talent: "I was 10 years old and about 60 of us were in a clinic with Jack Grout (the pro at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio). After a while he called me over and said, 'Jackie boy, show the kids how to hit the ball high in the air.' As soon as Grout saw I had the interest, he taught me all he knew and I never had to pay for (range) balls.

"I shot 121 in my first tournament, a sub-juvenile event, but at 13 I started traveling to play in events and qualified for the U.S. Amateur at 15. I just loved to play in the USGA events."

On his first meeting with legend Bobby Jones, whom Nicklaus calls Bob: "I was in my first U.S. Amateur at the Country Club of Virginia and he was there, and he told me, 'I'm going to come out and watch you play.' He showed up on No. 11 when I was one-up and I went bogey, bogey, double and lost three straight."

On reuniting with Jones at the Masters: "I was 19 and got to Augusta and Bob invited my dad and me down to his cabin. What a compliment. For the next 10 years, when I got to Augusta I would go down and visit with him and we would talk golf for hours. I never counted my majors until my 10th, when I learned Bob Jones had 13. That gave me a goal, to get at least 14."

On selling life insurance before he turned pro: "I married Barbara at 20 and had to make a living, so I was the youngest person in the state of Ohio licensed to sell life insurance. I didn't really like it much, but the reason I turned pro was I wanted to play golf. It was that simple."

On learning how to be the sportsman he's become: "I became keen on it because my dad was so keen on it. He told me, 'When somebody wins something, they're proud of that. Make them feel the way they should.' You're not always going to win, so when you don't, be a good sport about it."

On his children playing golf: "My father introduced me into golf, and I wanted to do the same, but I knew the kids would have a hard time following me. Jack Jr. had the hardest time, carrying my name, but he had a decent career. Nan probably would have been the best player, but she wasn't interested. They all came to me later and said, 'We wish you'd have pushed us more.' "

Calc struggles: Tequesta's Mark Calcavecchia had a disappointing Champions Tour season debut at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton last weekend, finishing 11-over with rounds of 75, 76 and 76. He said from Naples this week, where he's competing in the ACE Group Classic, that he was plagued by back problems throughout.

"My swing was out of whack and it was one of those things where I didn't have a chance," he said. He planned to see Lanny Wadkins' back doctor in Naples but also said he realizes the need to lose some weight.

Calcavecchia played with Rocco Mediate on the first day, when he shot a 67 before taking control of the tournament with a second-round 61. It was Mediate's debut on the Champions Tour.

"I don't think he played great with me, but he birdied the last three to turn it into a good round," Calcavecchia said. "He made an unbelievable birdie after duck-hooking his drive at No. 17. But it was definitely an impressive start."

Casey's Hope event: The second annual Casey's Hope golf event, a fundraiser for Stuart native Casey Bicknell -- who suffered a traumatic brain injury three years ago -- will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Yacht and Country Club of Stuart. Champions Tour pro Dana Quigley and trick-shot artist Kevin Compare from The Breakers will participate. For more information go to

Women's Golf Day: The South Florida PGA will stage its first free Women's Golf Day from 1-5 p.m. Saturday at Abacoa Golf Club in Jupiter. Lessons will be available from local PGA members and former LPGA Tour member Michelle McGann will stage a clinic. For more information go to

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters