By: Aman Misra
November 7th 1961… the day Jack Nicklaus wrote a letter to the then Executive Director of the United States Golf Association Joseph Dey Jr. announcing his intent to turn professional.
One of the toughest decisions I had to make as a young man was turning pro 56 years ago. Looking back, I can't imagine it any other way. pic.twitter.com/R7tL1WhUu7
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) November 7, 2017
Of the crowds that followed Bobby Jones, one included a drugstore owner from Columbus, Ohio called Charlie Nicklaus.
As the story goes, the elder Nicklaus hurt his foot playing volleyball. He was advised by doctors to take up an activity that would help him to walk more. Thereby the seven-year-old Jack Nicklaus was recruited as his bagman.
A chance meeting with a man who walked into his store looking for a dentist led to membership at Scioto Country Club, and young Jack met the head professional Jack Grout.
The rest, as they say is measured over twenty years of birdies and bogeys. Like Tiger Woods after him, the Golden Bear looked up to Jones’s record of thirteen major championships, surpassing him at the 1973 PGA Championship. Nicklaus would end his career with twenty major championships (including his two wins at the US Amateur)
In ’63, Jones saw the Bear hit his towering fades, making every putt imaginable – prompting the famous quote – “He (Nicklaus) plays a game I am unfamiliar with.”
“If you want to get golf on the front pages again, and you don’t have a Francis Ouimet, a Bobby Jones or a Ben Hogan handy, you send an aging Jack Nicklaus out in the last round of the Masters and tell him to kill more foreigners than a general named Eisenhower.” – Dan Jenkins
For a generation of new golf fans familiar with the fist-pumping Woods, Nicklaus was but a footnote. The man who according to Dan Jenkins woke up from hibernation to take the ’86 Masters Tournament with a final round 65. If there is a way to sum it all up, no one prepared for the big four the way Jack did. If professionals today have a couple of good seasons and a few wins over a decade it is considered a successful career given the competition and advancements in equipment and technology.
Nicklaus played in what has been dubbed as the greatest generation of golfers in the 1970s. Alongside the Lee Trevinos, Arnold Palmers and Gary Players, they took the game international. Fifty-six years after turning professional, it can be said that now more than ever his record of eighteen major championship titles is as safe as ever. With every passing year, this number becomes more and more imperative, if not elusive.
Aman is an aspiring writer. Currently studying Journalism at Symbiosis Pune in India, he would have liked to play golf for a living. While that did not work out, he still carries a declining 5 handicap and writes about the game apart from documenting other interests. He is available on Twitter - @theamanmisra