Alternate Shot League
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Thursday, June 4th

This format takes out the long ball driver and super putter,
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Missing another tradition unlike any other: The Masters’ honorary starters

According to the weather report, the temperature in Augusta at 7:45 on Thursday morning is supposed to be 70 degrees, rising to a high of 85 by mid-afternoon.

If the world was a normal place right now, thousands of people would be preparing to pack around the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club to get a close look at Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as they walk onto the tee to take part in one of sport’s sweetest rituals.

Fred Ridley, Augusta National’s chairman, would introduce the two—Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion; and Player, a three-time winner. Each would have warmed up, wanting to be sure they were loose enough to get their only shot of the 2020 Masters as far down the fairway as possible.

None of that will happen Thursday. Augusta National will be empty the way virtually every sporting venue—hallowed or not—is empty.

This would have been Nicklaus’s 11th year as an honorary starter and Player’s ninth. It has been the two of them alone on the tee since 2017. In 2016, Arnold Palmer was there but didn’t hit a shot. Nicklaus said later that at the Champions Dinner the previous night, he had tried to talk Palmer into taking a swing.

“I said to him, ‘Arnold, if you putt the ball off the tee, everyone will love it,’ ” Nicklaus said, adding, “He said he has some balance problems.”

Palmer had been an honorary starter since 2007—going at it solo for three years before Nicklaus and then Player were invited to join him. He sat on the tee that day in 2016, wearing his green jacket and, with a little help from Nicklaus, stood to acknowledge the cheers when then-club chairman Billy Payne introduced him.

When Nicklaus was introduced, he looked at his longtime rival and friend and had to wipe tears from his eyes. “I don’t know whether I’ve got tears or I’m just old,” he said.

2016 Masters Round 1
Augusta NationalNicklaus, Palmer and Player in 2016, the last year the trio appeared with each other for Augusta National’s kick-off celebration.

Clearly, the tears had nothing to do with his age. Five months later, on the eve of Ryder Cup week, Palmer passed away soon after turning 87.

The tradition of honorary starters at Augusta dates to 1963, when Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were asked to hit opening tee shots to start the tournament. Neither was a Masters champion, but Hutchison had won the first Senior PGA Championship, in 1937, and a year later McLeod won the second. Both those tournaments were played at Augusta National.

The two men shared the first tee until Hutchison, then 89, stepped aside in 1974. McLeod continued on alone through the 1976 tournament, taking his final swing at 93. A month later, he passed away.

Although the ceremonial tee shots are referred to as “an annual tradition,” there have been years when no one hit a shot before the actual start of the tournament.

After McLeod’s death, there were no ceremonial starters for the next four years. In 1981, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson were asked to become honorary starters. Nelson was a two-time Masters champion, and Sarazen’s one Masters victory, in 1935, featured “the shot heard round the world,” his 235-yard 4-wood on the 15th hole that found the hole for a double eagle.

In 1984, Sam Snead joined Sarazen and Nelson, and the three of them made the opening tee shot an important part of every Masters.

Honorary Starters, Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen, And Byron Nelson On The 1st Hole During The 1993 Masters Tournament
Augusta NationalSnead, Sarazen and Nelson held the ceremonial starter honors together starting in 1984.

Sarazen often provided highlight moments, not only with his ability to get the ball down the first fairway well into his 90s, but with his willingness to add to the chairman’s recitation of each player’s resume. When then-chairman Jack Stephens introduced Sarazen in 1994 as “a Masters, U.S. Open and British Open champion,” Sarazen said, “You forgot the PGA—I won the PGA three times.” The number of people on earth who could get away with publicly correcting an Augusta National chairman can usually be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. Stephens cracked up.

Sarazen was 97 the last time he teed it up, in 1999, and he died a month later. Nelson continued through 2001, leaving Snead as the sole swinger in 2002. Like McLeod and Sarazen, Snead died a month after his last ceremonial swing. One can’t help but wonder if each man pushed himself to make it to Augusta in April one last time.

After Snead’s death, there was another four-year gap with no starter until Palmer took over in 2007. There has been one fill-in starter: In 1983, Nelson couldn’t attend the tournament because his wife was ill, and he asked Ken Venturi to stand in for him.

Player is 84 and Nicklaus is 80. The hope is that both men will be part of the opening ceremony for many years to come. But because the Masters is the Masters, there are those who wonder who might be next in the line of succession.

Tom Watson, a two-time champion, turned 70 last September. There were some who thought the club might ask him to join Nicklaus and Player this year, but Watson recently said he didn’t think he was “worthy” of joining Nicklaus and Player. Chances are good the club will, at some point, disagree with him.

The other prime candidates in Watson’s generation to someday be starters are two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, who is now 68, and three-time champion Nick Faldo, who is 62.

Even though there have been years in the past without a starter, it seems unlikely the club will let that happen again. It is a tradition unique to the Masters and one that everyone clearly enjoys.

One thing that is almost certain: Sometime from 2040-‘45, longtime BFFs Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will be asked to be the starters. They will hit their tee shots and then—as all the honorary starters do—they will come into the media center to reminisce.

There is no doubt they will both talk about how the media exaggerated their differences dating to the long-ago 1990s. “Nothing to it,” they will say. “We always got along.” (For the record, Mickelson has already said this to me.)

My fondest wish is that I somehow live to witness that if only to tell those too young to remember that nothing could be farther from the truth For now, though, with everyone in golf keenly aware of the silence coming from Augusta National this week, all we can do is look forward to the honorary starters, and the Masters, on Nov. 12.

SOURCE: golfdigest.com

Let us host your next Outing / Event!

​​At Sugar Maple Golf Club, we host a variety of private events and parties. Whether you have a large or small group, we’d be delighted to host your event. Contact us for availability and details and be prepared to have a festive and memorable time with outstanding food, drinks, and service.

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Not only do we offer a relaxing atmosphere, beautiful views, and a well-maintained course, but our friendly staff will greet you when you arrive and direct you through whatever you need. Have lunch or dinner at the club house or enjoy a drink at our full-service bar. We can also answer any questions that you might have.

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Think you’re ready to rip it?  Think again

By Butch Harmon

When guys in particular want some extra yards, they usually stand farther from the ball and really stretch out their arms. They feel more powerful in this extended position. But the reality is, they end up producing less swing speed and hitting a weak drive to the right. Let me explain.

The problem with extending your arms is, you get more bent over, and your weight moves out to your toes (below, left). When you swing from there, gravity pulls you out even farther, so you react by pulling up to save your balance. That causes the club-head to swing across the line from out to in. You might hit a strong pull, but chance are, you’re going to wipe across the ball and send it slicing.

A better approach if you want more distance is to set up to hit a draw. Start with your arms relaxed and hanging comfortably from your shoulders, then take a closed stance, with your feet, hips and shoulders aimed to the right of your target (below, right). Then try to swing out to the right and hit the inside part of the ball. Think of it like a big, sweeping forehand in tennis. You’ll sling the club through and rotate your right arm over your left. That’s a draw—and that’s real power.

BUTCH’S BASICS

Keeping tension out of your arms at address sets up a free-flowing swing back and through. One good way to do this is to hover the club off the ground before you start (below). If you sole the club-head behind the ball, you’ll tend to push it into the turf, which tenses up the hand and arm muscles. With the club up, you can stay relaxed and sweep the ball off the tee. No better way to launch your driver.

Qualifying for the U.S. Olympic golf team: How to do it and Tiger’s chances

The men’s Olympic golf tournament is still six months away, but Americans, including Tiger Woods, trying to grab one of the four spots available in the 60-player field are already in an intense battle to get to Tokyo, where the competition begins on July 30 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

Here are some key facts and dates as they relate to making the 2020 Olympic tournament:

How many players will the U.S. send?

Up to four. The top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be eligible, with a limit of four players per country. There are currently nine Americans ranked among the top 15, so clearly a highly rated U.S. player who is capable of winning Olympic gold will not be competing.

How is the rest of the field determined?

Strictly based on the OWGR as of June 22, which is after the U.S. Open. Any country can have up to four players if they are among the top 15 in the world, with no more than two per country if they are ranked lower than 15th. Because of this, players well down in the world rankings will qualify. For example, as it stands now, the 60th player in the field would be Fabian Gomez of Argentina, who is ranked 242nd in the world.

What is the qualification period?

Because the OWGR operates on a two-year cycle, the qualification period began July 1, 2018 — the last day of the Quicken Loans National on the PGA Tour. All points earned at events from that point through the 2022 U.S. Open comprise the world ranking on a given day and the list from which the field will be determined. That is why the OWGR today does not mirror the projected ranking as of June 22: Any points a player earned prior to July 1, 2018, will not count toward Olympic qualification, but those points are still part of the two-year cycle now. That is the rolling nature of the OWGR. For example, Woods has depreciated points for his second-place finish at the 2018 Valspar Championship and tie for fifth at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational. They will no longer be part of his record after the dates of those events pass in 2020.

How does qualifying differ from the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup?

For United States players, the world rankings are not a determining factor for either competition. Players earn points based on money earned for the Ryder Cup and based on FedEx Cup points for the Presidents Cup. European Ryder Cup players have a points list that factors in money earned on the European Tour, as well as a world list based on the world ranking points earned during the qualification period.

If the Olympics were today, who would be playing for the United States?

No. 1 Brooks Koepka, No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Dustin Johnson and No. 6 Tiger Woods. But the rankings are volatile and there are numerous players in position to earn a spot. Patrick Cantlay is seventh in the world. Xander Schauffele is ninth. Webb Simpson is 11th and Patrick Reed is 12th. Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and Matt Kuchar — who earned Olympic bronze in Rio in 2016 — are all ranked in the top 20.

Nobody has locked down a spot because there are so many events still to be played with big world ranking points being offered: the WGC-Mexico Championship, the Players Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, the Masters, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

Tournaments such as the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial will also have loaded fields offering more points.

So what are Tiger’s chances?

Good, but he is far from a lock. The good news for Woods is that he is not in danger of losing points by playing events. That can happen to players who compete often. The OWGR formula is based on average points, which is computed by taking the total number of points earned and divided by events played. But the minimum divisor used is 40 events played over two years, a number Woods will not come close to achieving. Anything over 40 is the number used to divide, so the average number can decrease if an appropriate number of points are not earned.

Here’s the bottom line for Tiger: He’s in position, but with so many big events, he will need to produce. A victory somewhere would go a long way toward qualifying, but so would several top-5 finishes. And he is looking at playing events with strong fields, so high finishes would help even more. His tie for ninth on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open earned him 6.75 world ranking points, but he probably needs to average about 15 points per event to be assured of an Olympic spot. And the points drop off drastically after the top 10.

Woods can be expected to play between eight and 10 more tournaments prior to the cutoff.

An educated guess has these as the possibilities: Genesis Invitational, WGC-Mexico Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Players Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Masters, Wells Fargo Championship, PGA Championship, Memorial, U.S. Open.

Last year, Woods skipped the Arnold Palmer and Wells Fargo, so it’s possible he plays just eight more times prior to the Olympic cutoff.

SOURCE:  ESPN.com

How you can change your golf grip without even realizing it

Editor’s Note: Baden Schaff has been a PGA teaching professional for 17 years and is the co-founder of Skillest, a digital platform that connects golf students with golf coaches across the world for online lessons. To learn more about Skillest and to book a lesson of your own with Baden or with Andreas Kali.

The grip causes eternal fascination for golfers. It’s often the first thing I get asked during a lesson. Why is it that the aspect of the swing that creates the most intrigue has nothing to do with the swing itself?

The commonly rolled out line is “because it’s the only part of the body that is connected to the club”. This might well be true, but I think it’s more likely because it’s the only part of the golf swing you can see without videoing it. Your grip is staring you in the face every time you look down at that ball. But why, then, do students still have so much trouble getting it right?

Because they try and fix it in isolation.

Whenever I see a tip regarding the grip it is always a close up of how the two hands are sitting on the club, cut off above the wrists. But what if there is something else at play? What if your grip was influenced by more than just the way your hands are holding the club. Well, there is and it’s got everything to do with your body posture and the way your arms hang at setup. Trying to get your grip right without getting your set up right will drive you mad.

Let’s look at two of the best players in the world. Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. Dustin has an incredibly strong grip and subsequently shuts the club on the takeaway. Bryson on the other hand is the opposite. He has an incredibly weak grip, particularly evident in the left hand, and has a much more neutral face during the golf swing.

Now are these two grips diametrically opposed because they just hold it differently? No, it’s also because DJ generally starts with the body more over the ball and an almost straight down arm hang. This creates more “radial deviation” and gives the left wrist an exaggerated “extension” or cupping. This is what makes it look so strong.

Bryson is the exact opposite. He plays golf with a more upright posture and has much higher hands, almost like the heel of his club is off the ground. This is why Bryson has his clubs lie angles so upright. This setup creates ulnar deviation and less extension in the left wrist and gives it a look of being incredibly weak. It’s not so much the way their hands sit on the club as much as their posture and their arm hang. This is why you can get your grip looking perfect when you hold the club up in front of you but looks completely wrong when the club is down at address.

Grips cannot be fixed in isolation, they are part of a much broader picture.

A great way to test this for yourself is by taking your usual set up. Then, if you want to see your grip weaken without moving your hands on the club, stand slightly closer to the ball, raise your hands so that it feels like the heel of the club is off the ground, just like Bryson.

If you want to see your grip strengthen, push your hands towards the ground and watch the toe of the club come off the ground. You will notice that your left wrist will cup or extend more making it look stronger. When it is set like DJ you will notice that you can see three of four knuckles while setting up like Bryson will show you only one or two knuckles.

Personally, I prefer Bryson’s style, but let’s not detract from the larger point: Your grip can be changed and influenced without ever moving the hands on the club, because it’s affected by your body position. Like always, any change to your swing must be made with a broader context in mind. Nothing ever works independently. Your challenge is finding a coach that understands cause and effect well enough to work with your motion as a whole.

SOURCE:  Golf.com

PGA Tour implements stricter policy, harsher penalties to prevent slow play

You all have hollered, and the PGA Tour has listened. This week, the PGA Tour announced a new slow-play policy that will go into effect at the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters.

In a two-pronged approach to quelling slow play, the PGA Tour has decided to crack down on players who take an excessive amount of time to hit shots. This will be done two ways.

  • Observation list: Players will be put on a list based on ShotLink data over their last 10 tournaments based on “egregiously slow” play. They will be subject to a 60-second shot clock at all times if they are on the list in the given week of a tournament.
  •  Excessive shot times: If anyone takes more than two minutes to hit a shot without a “good reason for doing so,” you’re given an excessive shot time.

The biggest change is probably that now you get penalized a shot for two bad times in a tournament, not just a single round, which is what the rule previously stated. Not only can you get penalized in the two new ways above, but all of the old ways still apply, too.

Here’s Bob Harig of ESPN with a succinct breakdown of those.

Currently, any group that is deemed out of position — a hole behind the group in front or with a significant gap — is told it is out of position. That means any player in that group can be timed and if a time limit for various shots — typically 40 seconds — is exceeded, the player is warned. A second bad time results in a 1-shot penalty, which has happened in an individual stroke-play event on the PGA Tour just once going back to 1995.

So, I remain mildly dubious considering this type of incident has resulted in a stroke penalty one time in 25 years. But still, give it up to the PGA Tour for moving forward, for raising the stakes (literally) here and for the implementation of its two new rules.

Additionally, fines and penalties for slow play have been enhanced significantly. Officials will now assess a one-stroke penalty for the second bad time in a tournament, not a round, and for every bad time thereafter in the same tournament. The fines for the second bad time in a season and for 10 cumulative timings in a season have also been raised to $50,000 (from $5,000).

“We felt we needed to ratchet up the deterrence,” PGA Tour Chief of Operations Tyler Dennis said. “We’ve significantly upped the ante on stroke penalties. Currently it’s by the round; now it’s going to be over the entire tournament. It’s more likely that a player could find themselves in this situation.”

This is a story that won’t go anywhere, especially as golf becomes easier and easier to view. Fans, other players and media will only apply more scrutiny to every scenario moving forward as the PGA Tour starts to prepare to handle it.

SOURCE:  CBSSports.com

Harold Varner III just broke an impressive, and slightly odd, PGA Tour record

Harold Varner III delivered fans the greatest show on turf at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And it had nothing to do with TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole.

Varner, 29, opened up the event on Thursday with a par … and over the next two days, followed with 31 straight similar scores. For those of you scoring at home, that would be a whopping 32 pars, which set a PGA Tour record for most consecutive pars to start a tournament in the ShotLink era.

K.J. Choi was the previous title holder with 27 pars at the 2006 Colonial.

Frame this bad boy and put it in the Smithsonian.

Alas, some stars shine so bright they burn out in two wink’s of a coal miner’s eye. Varner’s golden quest was sidetracked at the 15th, where apparently the East Carolina product said “The hell with history” by making a birdie. The audacity. Worse, he followed with a bogey at the infamous 16th, moving him back to even for the event. Clearly, there are golf gods, and they are cruel.

It’s been an inauspicious start to 2020 for Varner, who missed cuts at the American Express and Farmers Insurance Open. Hopefully riding this magical train gets his season back on track.

SOURCE:  GolfDigest.com

The First Cut: Predicting who will win every major golf championship in 2020

With Justin Thomas taking the first event of 2020 and also being one of the five best players in the world right now, I thought it would be fun to look ahead to golf’s major championships taking place later on this year. Thomas was already a fringe pick for me in a few of these, and his recent run of dominance which has included taking the “hottest player alive” belt from Jon Rahm has only accentuated my infatuation with him at the four big ones.

Picking any tournament, much less the four majors, four months in advance is probably a fool’s errand, but it’s also fun to call your shots at the beginning of the year and then try to ride them into the ground over the next nine months. Here’s how I envision the first four majors of the new decade unfolding.

Masters: Rory McIlroy

I can’t quit it. I know I should, but I can’t. Mindset seems to be a real thing for him at this tournament, and a lot of the pressure and build-up of that career slam talk will be taken out of his hands this year because, you know, Tiger Woods is going to be the returning (and defending) champion. McIlroy’s finishes here are well-documented — five top-10s in the last six years — so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play well. I think the formula for him is probably going to be shooting a 65 or 64 on either Thursday or Friday and turning it into a track meet on the weekend (a la the 2014 Open Championship).

PGA Championship: Jon Rahm

Rahm’s game travels to any of these probably more than anybody else’s. He’s won everywhere. Dubai, San Diego, Ireland, it doesn’t matter. The PGA Championship is always a week of “pick who you think is going to get on the hottest heater,” and Rahm has certainly shown a propensity for that. He has also quietly (?) built himself into one of the five best players in the world right now — a list that, in my opinion, includes Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods — even if people maybe haven’t quite realized it yet. The next logical step for him is winning a major.

U.S. Open: Justin Thomas

J.T. has added a toughness to his arsenal that he didn’t have before. That’s not unexpected. Most players get tougher (and wiser) as they get older, but when you combine that with the reality that he’s one of the two or three best iron players on the planet, it’s a nasty combination. The driver can get crooked at times (like we saw late on Sunday), but the management of his own game from 175 yards and in is breathtaking. That will be useful at deadly Winged Foot.

Open Championship: Xander Schauffele

A question coming out of the Tournament of Champions for me: Can Xander be a frontrunner in a big spot? The answer so far has been no, which is fine because he’s shown he has plenty of game and becoming comfortable from the pole position is another trait that’s learned over time. The numbers are devastating though. Five top-six finishes in just 11 major starts. The reason I picked him for this year’s Open is because that’s often the major where it’s least important to be a great frontrunner. It’s very easy to envision Schauffele starting from three back on Sunday, firing a 67 to get in the house and clipping somebody in a playoff at Royal St. George’s.

SOURCE:  CBSSports.com

From Tiger to Annika and more: 18 prominent golf figures share their favorite Jack Nicklaus memories

Jack Nicklaus is more than a golfer, he’s an idea. It’s one thing to be the greatest champion the game has ever known, but to also be the quintessence of class, dignity and sportsmanship? Well, Jack represents something bigger than himself. In honor of The Golden Bear turning 80 on Tuesday (Jan. 21), GOLF.com is spending Nicklaus’ birthday week — with a little help from his friends — honoring the man himself. You can find even more Jack at 80 coverage in GOLF’s February issue.

The fondness for Jack among players and friends runs so deep that teeing up favorite memories of him — and best wishes for his 80th — was as effortless as the Bear’s generosity and grace.

Bryson DeChambeau
“My first memory of Mr. Nicklaus was when I was a kid. My dad would talk about Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors. At that time, I was six, seven, eight, and Tiger was starting to come about. There was talk of Tiger passing Jack’s record. When I finally met Mr. Nicklaus, I don’t think he liked me very much initially. The first Memorial I played in we did a clinic, and I did this trick shot where someone stands in my follow-through. I don’t think he liked that. But I was able to win his tournament, and it’s been great getting to know him a little more. He once told me, ‘Hey, you’ve got the formula. Keep working hard and you’ll be fine.’ That was it. Sometimes the best advice is being told that you’re good enough.”

Tiger Woods
“Jack’s said a lot of things to me over the years — a lot of ’em I can’t tell you. But 80 years? Wow. He’s given me advice here and there, and when we talk it’s often about life in general. He always wants to know: ‘How’s everything going? How you playing? How you swinging? What are you working on?’ What he’s done for the game of golf in 80 years is incredible, and it’s not only what he accomplished as a player. Don’t forget how many golf courses he’s designed around the world — probably near 500. F—in’ crazy.”

Matt Kuchar
“One of my favorite memories ever of Jack is from when I won the Memorial, and the pictures of my kids and him high-fiving on the side of the green. I’d always heard about Jack’s history—he had five kids and didn’t play the 25-tournament schedule that some guys played. He was always getting home and making sure he prioritized being with the family. It’s a tricky juggling act, doing what we do. It’s a great life, and a difficult one at the same time. I have a huge respect for figuring out and balancing both. I think a lot of that comes from marrying a great woman, and Jack clearly did that.”

Padraig Harrington
“I’ve got a personal story with Jack from early last year. He had given me the courtesy [of playing time] at the Bear’s Club for a couple of weeks, when I was rehabbing. It was early on and I hadn’t yet seen Jack, but suddenly there he was. He looked busy, as if he might have had a meeting to go to. But I stopped him just to say, ‘Jack, thanks for welcoming me here.’ He said, ‘No problem.’ And then he asks, ‘Are you with anyone?’ And I was. Jack came all the way across the room to introduce himself to my guests, and it was a thrill. You could see he was in a hurry, but, no, he found time to stop. It’s exceptional; it’s just a different league. It was something I learned from. Here’s Jack, at 79, 80 years of age, still setting an example.”

Bubba Watson
“I remember watching the ’86 Masters with my dad, and that putt on the 17th. Even when I watch it today, it looks like the ball is going to break out of the hole. In my head, I always think the ball is going to miss low. But it goes in, and the rest is history. When I think about Jack Nicklaus, I always think about that putt. My history’s not like his, but what an honor to think that I have some history at Augusta, with Jack and all the other great champions who have won there.”

Rickie Fowler
“I don’t remember the exact first time I met Jack; I’ve been around him plenty of times now. But one of the first times we spoke was when Barbara reached out to me about playing in their foundation event. I called the house and Jack answered. ‘Hey, Jack, this is Rickie Fowler.’ We talked for roughly five seconds. Then I asked, ‘Is Barbara there?’ Jack and Barbara are people I’ve looked up to, and people I love spending time with. Honestly, I think you can learn just as much from her as you can from him. She’s got such a good sense of what goes on outside the ropes in day-to-day life, and, obviously, there’s nobody like Jack when it comes tobeing a competitor.”

Barbara Nicklaus
[Like her husband, Barbara Nicklaus turns 80 this year.] “Well, you know, Jack is a lot older than me. [Laughs.] But we stay busy, and we feel so blessed. We’ve been able to help children [with the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation], and so many people share that passion. It’s been wonderful. Jack really didn’t have much time [to help] when he was playing, but he was always supportive. I recently heard him tell somebody, ‘Barbara supported me for 30 years and now I’m supporting her.’ And he loves it. He said helping a child is much more important than a 4-foot putt. We’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a blast.”

Tony Finau
“My Jack story: I’m playing Colonial the week before the Memorial, and I get a text from my manager: Hey, Jack would like you to participate in his clinic on Wednesday. Are you interested? I remember reading it and thinking, ‘Wait, Jack wants me to be in his clinic?’ I was just ecstatic. I was a rookie at the time, and was like, Yeah, of course! But now the next four days, all I can think about is that I’m going to be hitting in front of Jack. I couldn’t tell you what I did Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, anything. But then Wednesday comes. I get to the clinic and I’m nervous as heck. Jack goes, ‘Okay, new young star here. I’m impressed with his game. Everyone welcome the long-bombing Tony Finau.’ Then he says, ‘Tony, why don’t you grab your driver and hit some for us.’ So I’m out there and I’m literally shaking. He’s like, ‘Okay, what shot do you want to hit?’ And I tell him I only hit a cut with my driver. He’s like, ‘All right, let’s see some.’ So I tee the ball up, and I get over it, just wanting to hit it as hard as I can. So I crush it, this little draw. And Jack goes, ‘Nice one. How was that?’ And I was like, ‘Perfect!’ I tee up another one, and I duck-hook this thing like 60 yards to the left, but I realized after the first one that I don’t think Jack can even see that far. And so he’s like, ‘How was that one?’ And I go, ‘Perfect!’ And everybody in the crowd’s laughing, because they saw where it went. And he goes, ‘Okay, how about one more?’ And I banana-slice that one 30 yards right, and he goes, ‘How was that?’ And I go, ‘I pured it.’ I love that moment and that story, because it was my first time hitting in front of Jack. I was so nervous—and it didn’t end up mattering. Totally great guy.”

Patrick Cantlay
“I met Jack when I won the Nicklaus Award in college, after my freshman year at UCLA. I went to the Memorial to accept the award, and then I had U.S. Open Qualifying the next day. He was gracious and very genuine. He was just a good guy to be around. Now I’ve been able to spend more time with him. Last year, at the Memorial, he gave me advice. Basically, he said, ‘Stop and smell the roses.’ That was the trick that worked for him, to calm himself down. Enjoying it helped him relax a little more. He shared that with me and it’s been really beneficial.”

Mike Davis
“Jack’s been a good friend to the USGA since his junior years, and one of the true privileges I’ve had was opening the Jack Nicklaus wing of the USGA Golf Museum in 2015. I can remember that day well, and the private tour we gave to Jack and Barbara and their family before we opened it to the public. His room was an addition to the museum. It sits adjacent to the Ben Hogan Room and is accessed by a window-encased hallway that ends with a bronze of Jack we commissioned titled Jack Is Back, to commemorate his 1980 U.S. Open win. This moment was more than a celebration of Jack as a player—but also as a husband, a father, a designer and a grandparent. A napkin from Jack and Barbara’s wedding was displayed, and other family artifacts loaned to us. It was a moment to celebrate all he was, is and will be to golf—an ambassador of all that is great about golf. He paid homage to Ben’s room, spent quite a bit of time in the Bob Jones Room, knowing how much he looked up to him through his career. As we were leaving the museum to attend the ceremony, we ended at the Arnold Palmer Room, adjacent to the front door. ‘My room’s better than his,’ Jack said under his breath, with a smile. And all we could do was chuckle and think, Once a competitor, always a competitor. We hope he never loses that spirit. It is what makes him a champion in every sense of the word.”

Justin Thomas
“The first time I really spent time with Jack was when we had lunch before I got into the Bear’s Club, down in Florida. That’s something he does with all the guys. He said to me, ‘If you ever need anything or want to talk, just call.’ I’ve tried to take advantage of that. He’s given me a lot of good advice—nothing I’d want to share with anybody. But I’d love to say, Happy 80th to not only one of the greatest to ever play the game but one of its greatest ambassadors. What Jack’s done off the course is as impressive as what he’s done on it.”

Jordan Spieth
“If I were to wish him a happy birthday, I’d say, ‘Jack, I hope you’re spending it in your favorite place: Pebble Beach. And I hope you’re getting the opportunity to do what you love to do, which is play golf. Actually, now that might mean fly-fishing, too. Either way, I hope it’s a really great one. Taking on life the way you have until you’re 80—that’s an accomplishment.’ ”

Annika Sorenstam
“I’ve been lucky to spend some fun times with Jack. One that I really liked was [when he was working on a down there, and it was really cool. On our way home, he shared stories about his grandchildren and his family and Barbara. It was very personal and not so much ‘Let’s talk major championships.’ I remember our moments off the course more because he’s so human—though sometimes he’s unhuman on the golf course.”

John Daly
“I got paired with Jack at Doral one year. It was great to play a tournament round with Jack Nicklaus. It was probably 1994. On the first tee, he hits a good drive, then I hit a really good one. I killed it. I have only an 8-iron left into the green. Jack shanks a 4-iron that goes about 20 yards into the right-hand rough. Then he takes out a 6-iron and hits it to within a foot of the hole. Ends up tying me. Shows you how great he is—and how great he was then—to come back from a shot like that. It was one of the greatest holes that I’d ever played.”

Kevin Kisner
“I was only two years old, but I’ll always remember the clothing they were wearing the last time Jack won the Masters. Everybody out there… in plaid. But to win the Masters at 46? That was quite the feat. Jack’s awesome, and still very much involved. I see him every year at Muirfield Village, and it’s cool. He knows a lot about the game. I’ve never really asked him for advice, but I really like to BS and hang out with him. We talk about fishing.”

Jerry Pate
“Jack and I went to the Great Barrier Reef in 1977 or ’78 to go marlin fishing. I’d never black-marlin fished before, but Jack had been going for years trying to catch a 1,000-pounder. First day out, first fish I caught was 1,025 pounds. Jack was so mad! Five days later, I rode on a boat with him and just happened to have an old Super 8mm movie camera with me. It was about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and Jack hooked up this big marlin. I think it ended up weighing 1,358 pounds. At that time, it was like the third largest ever landed, and it took him six hours and 20 minutes to do it. I told everybody when we got back to the mothership, ‘Only Jack Nicklaus would have landed that fish.’ He fought it for six hours and 20 minutes, and hooked it up at 11:20 that night. I’d never seen anybody fight a fish that long. His determination was very similar to his determination when he was playing golf—he was not going to be defeated. There’s a video of it in the World Golf Hall of Fame! I shot it with a Bell & Howell camera. We didn’t have VHS, much less iPhones, back then. But you can see the fish coming out of the water. It was a lot of fun. To see Jack, the greatest of all time, land a fish that was one of the biggest of all time—well, it was a tribute to his tenacity.”

Davis Love III
“I’ve been around Jack since I was a little kid, and one of the things that sticks with me about his game is his power. He was Big Jack. From when he was a little kid, he was taught to swing for the fence. And now everybody is. I’m teaching a five-year-old granddaughter to swing for the fence. ‘I don’t care. Hit it hard as you want. We’ll straighten it out later on.’ That was the way Jack played—with passion and bravado. That’s what I remember: Big Jack hitting it hard. But if I could take any part of his game, it would be his preparation. I learned late from him that he was more prepared and ready than anybody else. Not only was he the best, but he was also the most prepared. It made him that much more confident. When he got to a major championship, he was more ready than everybody else. I see that in Tiger, too. And I talk to the next generation about it. ‘You shouldn’t focus on trying to swing like Jack. Be prepared like Jack.’ ”

Billy Horschel
“Mr. Nicklaus, you have done so much for golf. So many pros are thankful for everything you did for us in the early days of the PGA Tour and throughout the history of the game. So, Happy Birthday, and thank you so much for the path you set.”

SOURCE:  GOLF.COM