• Up Close with the Golden Bear

    by Marcia Waitt

    jack nicklausThe renaming of Pasadera Country Club to the Nicklaus Club-Monterey brought a unique opportunity to a few lucky souls on Friday Oct. 11th when golf legend and course designer Jack Nicklaus gave his time and attention to the local membership for an evening.

    Dressed in casual golf attire and tennis shoes, Jack settled in to a comfy leather chair to discuss the likes of competition and the layout and design of Nicklaus Club-Monterey.   Jack is a busy man at 73, traveling internationally with his company, Nicklaus-China venture operating as a full service operation that not only creates the golf courses, but also helps set up management, maintenance and residential development programs as part of the package.  He has designed courses in 36 countries and 39 states.   He notes that designing golf courses allows him an “expression about a piece of ground that will last longer than his golf game.”

    Visiting the Peninsula is easy for Jack as he always comes back to his love for the area.   “I love the Monterey Peninsula and I love Pebble Beach.”  Or when he jokes, “I don’t like the Monterey Peninsula at all, and haven’t had much success here.”  He absolutely loves California, as the courses are fun to design based on the natural landscape.  The par 71 Nicklaus Club-Monterey naturally has a flatter front 9 and a hilly back 9 with wonderful valleys and vistas.   The course allows for homes to look down on the course from above.  Nicklaus shared, “You have great land, great weather, great variety.”

    Nicklaus designs courses based upon the players who will play the course.  Nicklaus joked, “Memberships usually don’t get younger.”  He is a strong proponent of playing the correct tees, as you can “always move back.”   He noted that only 1.8 percent of golfers play from the back tees.   For the rest of us, it’s important to pick the right tees for your game and keep the game moving.   “I want to take the driver out of the hands of the big player,” Nicklaus states, which he refers to as the “gorillas.”  Nicklaus notes a designer’s job is to “find the golf course” not design the golf course.

    As a local high school coach, I really wanted Nicklaus’s advice on how to handle pressure putts and shots.   He told a great story as his answer.   Once in a tournament at Oak Tree in the 80’s, he missed the cut.   (He noted that there is nothing worse than missing the cut and staying home to watch it on television.)

    Nicklaus added that they ate at McDonalds (yes, McDonalds) and saw a quote on a child’s cup.  The quote said, “There is no excuse for not being properly prepared.” The next day, Nicklaus’ wife Barbara, put the cup with the quote next to his coffee cup.

    Nicklaus thrives on the gallery who seems to be having as much fun as he is.  He loves being in a position to have to make a shot.  Sometimes he would look around at the crowd, and he would think, “Go do it, and have fun with it.”   He recommends a player never try to make a shot when the odds aren’t in your favor.  If there’s a 50 percent chance that the shot will not work, don’t take the chance, it’s not conservative, and it’s not smart.

    Nicklaus is a true family man, thriving on the athletic events of his grandchildren.  He rarely misses a family athletic event, and as a matter of fact, his wife Barbara was regularly texting him scores and updates.   He commented that kids should be involved in all sports, not just golf.  Nicklaus gets out to play golf himself about once a month, as his life is the reverse of an average retired person.   Most people retire from work so they can play golf.  Nicklaus played golf so that he could work at something he loves to do, and that’s designing and developing golf courses.

    Coming from a family that has savors the game of golf, I have had the honor to have friendly chats with great golfers such as Phil Mickelson, and Johnny Miller. My father even played in a pro-am with Tiger Woods when my brother “won” the draw to play with Tiger.  (He said, “Uh oh Dad, you play.”)   For me, a life long golf fanatic and girls golf coach at Pacific Grove High School, nothing compares to this unbelievable opportunity to delve into the mind of the “Golden Bear,” the great Jack Nicklaus.

    Jack Nicklaus- Major Tournament Wins
    Professional: 18
    • Masters: 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975, 1986
    • U.S. Open: 1962, 1967, 1972, 1980
    • British Open: 1966, 1970, 1978
    • PGA Championship: 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1980
    Amateur: 2
    • U.S. Amateur: 1959, 1961

    posted to Cedar Street Times on October 17, 2013

    Topics: Sports

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