The Memorial Tournament is won by its creator, Jack Nicklaus
By: Claudia Mazzucco
On May 23, 1977, Jack Nicklaus won the second edition of the Memorial Tournament. The final round finished on Monday, after a weather delay, Jack shot a one-under-par 71, and 281 total, for a two stroke victory over Hubert Green.
Nicklaus experienced disappointment and frustration in his plans to design for his own golf course in his home state. Though he acquired the land in Dublin, Ohio, in 1966, it was not until July 1972 that the construction of Muirfield Village actually began.
After the first round, his par 72 left him four strokes behind co-leaders Mark Lye and Bobby Wadkins. Wadkins had set a record of 29 with seven birdies on the incoming 9. Nicklaus improved his position with a 68 for 140 in the second round. Gary Player hit every green, did not make any bogey and was tied for the lead with Jerry McGee at 138. Each shot 68. In the third round, Nicklaus sank from the bunker in the last hole and edged within one stroke of Wadkins who resumed the lead with 209. On Sunday, Nicklaus holed from 20 feet on the second hole and approached within two feet on the sixth for another birdie.
By 3 pm, however, a brief storm struck Muirfield Village, delaying play for twenty minutes. When action resumed, Jack was on top by two strokes. At 4.10 pm the golf course became unplayable when the storm let loose again. With high winds, thunder, lightning and a curtain of rain sweeping the course, submerging the greens while players and galleries scurried for cover. The players sloshed back to their marks at 6:30 but the clouds rolled in and the rains came at 7:39 with Nicklaus on the 16th and Green near the 15th green. At 8:05, with ten players on the course, play was cancelled. It was decreed a 9 am Monday finish. “I was pretty nervous this morning,” Nicklaus said, “I really wanted to win very badly.”
On the 18th he hit a 3-iron from the fairway which apparently was headed for a huge tree that guarded the left of the green. “I hit that tree in the last round last year and made six,” he recalled. “Today, I said ‘Gosh, get over the tree’ and fortunately it did.”
Nicklaus thought then, and he still believes today, that winning his own tournament was probably the most “difficult victory I ever had in the game of golf.” As he was involved with every facet of the tournament, Jack’s attention to his own game began to decline. “I did practically everything but parking cars and picking up the trash,” he said. “Actually, I did a lot of that, too. My son Jackie was my caddie, and by the time we finished each round, his pockets were filled with cigarette butts and paper and things we had picked up around the golf course.”
Muirfield Village also rounded out Nicklaus’s image as he shifted from being the best golfer in the History of Golf to settling down to the status of respectable golf course architect, an achievement holding a powerful appeal in 1970s PGA Tour. “I am not exaggeration when I say it was my biggest thrill in golf. And I liked that feeling so much that I won the tournament again in 1984.”
Nicklaus was not prepared for retirement. He was so wrapped up in his career that only occasionally did he feel that his game was in danger of being in retreat. “I even mentioned to Barbara during the awards ceremony that I was thinking of announcing my retirement from competitive golf. Fortunately, Barbara wisely counseled me to ignore the emotions I was battling at that moment and to bite my tongue.” Memorial Memorial Memorial Memorial
Claudia M. Mazzucco is a researcher at Golf Channel and teacher of History of Golf at the PGA of Argentina, in Buenos Aires. She is the author of Legendary Lessons (2016), El Golf de los Tiempos, A Novel (2002) and The Guide of Golf Courses in Argentina (2003). She received the PGA Award from the PGA of Argentina in 2005