Friday, April 01, 2011

Memories Of Nicklaus In '86 -- Still Golden

With next week being the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus's memorable victory in the 1986 Masters, we're asking readers to send us their recollections (to of that Sunday or their favorite memory of the Golden Bear.

   Here are a few storires we've already received:

    Two of my brothers interned at Augusta National, in 1985 and 1987, and I was fortunate to attend the Masters those years. Little did I know that my brothers' university schedules would conspire to prevent me from witnessing the greatest Masters of my lifetime, particularly considering I grew up a "Jack fan." My father was an "Arnie fan." My father and I since reconciled, and we are both "Phil fans" today. But I digress.
   As it turned out, a close friend was married in Milwaukee on Saturday, April 12, 1986. My return home on Sunday, April 13 was circuitous, taking me from Milwaukee, to Cleveland, and finally to Charlotte. Little did I know when I boarded my flight in Milwaukee that I was about to miss a great spectacle. I caught a few early holes at the Milwaukee airport, and a few more, mid-round, in Cleveland. Regrettably, I largely missed Jack's 30 on the final nine.

   Of course, 1986 was before Blackberry and DVR, so there I was unable to access any updates on the plane, or to watch at home that evening. By the time I was in the Charlotte terminal, Nicklaus was wearing the Green Jacket. I've watched the final round several times since then, but it would have been magic to see it live.

    People tend to forget the quality of the leader board in 1986. Within four strokes at the end were Kite, Norman, Ballesteros, Price, Haas and Watson. Price led Nicklaus by three strokes following Price's course record 63 on Saturday.

R. Steven DeGeorge

   I remember watching the 1986 Masters with my Dad as a 10-year old boy. It was a tense afternoon around our house which turned into a real special moment.

   Jack is very close to my Dad's age and I just remember how neat it was watching him pull it off. It's one of those things that you just don't get to see too often and I will always have a special place in my heart for the Masters and probably a great deal due to that year. It really has stuck with me to this day as I tend to get a giddy feeling when the tournament rolls around. I can hear the music now.

Brad Lance

   Jack came to Gastonia shortly after turning pro, to play an exhibition at the old Gastonia Country Club with Charlie and Dave Smith (2 excellent amateurs from Gastonia), and another pro.....I think it was either George Bayer or Mike Souchak....both renowned long hitters of that era. (Long hitters in that day being the ones who hit it 275.) The match was billed as a driving duel between Dave Smith and George (or Mike). On the first hole, and most holes after, Jack drove past all of them. Back in those days we rarely saw pros play, and I’ll never forget the sound when his club struck the ball......just exploded.

   Finally I remember his loss to Tom Watson (in the 1982 U.S. Open) after Tom chipped in from off the green. Can’t remember the course or tournament, but you’ll know that. Both class guys and great players.

   Sorry I can’t remember some details, but Jack, Arnie, Tom, Lee, Gary. were the guys I grew up watching and reading about. Jack was not very popular at the time, because he didn’t have the persona of the he was moving into Arnie’s territory. He became more likable in later years. I always liked him, I guess from that early exhibition.

  Jeff Rudisill

   I was a 17-year old high school student in Hendersonville in 1963 or 1964 (can't quite remember which) working a summer job for WHKP radio. Nicklaus and Gary Player were scheduled to play an exhibition match at the then Asheville Country Club, now the Grove Park Inn course.

   I convinced the station's sport director to let me go over to Asheville and get an interview. Player was very popular, but Nicklaus was new on the tour and posing a challenge to everybody's hero Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus was not the fan favorite in those early years that he would later become. I introduced myself before the match and requested an interview. Nicklaus asked if I could wait until after the match.

  Truthfully, I figured he would play and bolt without giving a second thought to my request. After the match I approached him again. Much to my surprise and delight he said that he'd be happy to do the interview and invited me into the locker room. I sat down with him, each sitting on stools in front of his locker and conducted a 5 minute interview. I walked out of the clubhouse a Jack Nicklaus fan for life. And I still have the recording of that interview.

Robert Orr

   On Sept. 12, 1976, I had the opportunity to go the World Open at Pinehurst. It was on a Friday. Jack Nicklaus missed the cut. He finished on the ninth hole. He knew he’d missed the cut. What I’ll never forget is Jack and Angelo (Argea, his caddie) sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon that was designated to take them back to the club, signing every single autograph request for every fan young and old. It was an amazing.

   While I saw him win the U.S. Open at Baltusrol later in his career, nothing will compare to that single act of incredible sportsmanship shown by the greatest of all time.

David Caldwell

   I have a great Jack Nicklaus moment and memory that will last a lifetime – the entire back nine of Augusta in 1986! My wife Maggie and I were with 8-10 friends Saturday and Sunday in 1986, and our crowd was gathered at No. 12, sitting down on blankets. But my wife and I picked up Jack on No. 10 and we saw him birdie 10 and 11.

    We came upon our group of friends at 12 when Jack made a bogey and someone said, “ya’ll have a seat, Jack’s done”. And I said, “I don’t care if he is done or not, I am walking in with him.” And my wife and I followed him on every hole coming in, and we saw his birdie at 13, his eagle at 15 and his birdie at 16 – the roar was deafening, unlike anything I have ever heard at Augusta. Then, standing on one of the elephant humps we crossed over at 15 to the green at No. 17 where there was nobody and waited for Jack to play 17.

   And we were only 20 or 30 feet away facing Jack when he made the winning birdie putt at 17. And it was the most exciting moment I have ever had at any sporting event, people were running like a herd of cattle up 18, screaming Jack’s got the lead!. I told my wife she was witnessing sports history, and she knew it. You could literally feel the electricity in the air. And to see Jack do that with his son on the bag was truly special and made the afternoon a day I will never forget.

Curtis Elliott

    Jack has long been my favorite athlete. I have always admired his commitment to family and his professionalism. I have been fortunate to get many autographs over the years from Jack, but when I lived in Richmond, Va. I had a stunning moment I will never forget.

   I was in the locker room of a health club I belonged to, about 4:00 pm on a Thursday afternoon. I was getting dressed after working out.

   I heard the door to the locker room open, and my heart skipped a beat as Jack Nicklaus and two of his sons walked in. Jack walked right up to the locker next to me, put down a Converse tennis shoe box, and looked over at me and said "How you doing today." I almost fainted.

   Long story short his son was getting married in Richmond on Saturday, and his fiance and her family were members at this health club. I asked Jack if it would be a bad time to ask for an autograph, and he smiled and said "No time is a bad time." I told him that the 1986 Masters was the only sporting event that had ever made me cry. He smiled and said, "Yeah, I think it's my favorite ever."

   I stayed at the gym for an hour and a half and watched Jack and his sons play basketball. It was surreal for a fan like me.

   Jack talked to any and everybody who wanted to speak, even getting chastised by one of his son's at one point...."Dad, are you gonna play basketball or talk!"

  By the way, Jack and his son's can play a little hoops!

Joe Baucom

   In 1986 I was commuting weekly between my home in Rockingham where I worked and my new job in Spruce Pine. On that fateful weekend, I had spent my Sunday morning working in my backyard until it was time for the Masters to be televised. If I remember correctly, Jack was playing well going into Sunday but was not considered to be in contention so I was coming inside every so often just to check the leader board and see who was moving up or down.

   During one of my frequent visits into the family room they were showing the leader board and in mid-stream the board changed and Nicklaus's name popped up. I am not sure who the announcers were but one of them stated "the bear is on the prowl". My yard work time came to an abrupt end as I sat down and watched one of the greatest if not the greatest, final 9-holes to close and win not just a tournament but the Masters.

  With each passing hole, with each magical shot, with each magical putt, Jack, who seemed determined at least to get close, forged ahead like Sherman on his infamous march to Atlanta. Jack's concentration, especially when standing over a much need putt, was second to none and when he kept dropping putts you could see him feeding off of the enthusiasm of the crowd. The leaders behind him could do nothing to silence the roar after roar as Jack defied the odds and kept making the shots needed to win.

   For them it was a helpless feeling I'm sure. This was proven as Jack sat in the clubhouse with the lead and watched as Seve and Kite fell apart and the "Shark", who was closing fast, could not hit the defining shot to the 18th green for a chance to win.

   I will always remember that afternoon and the greatness it brought to the game of golf.

Dan Rowe

   I was standing behind the bunker to the right of the 15th green when Jack Nicklaus came through during the final round of the Masters in 1986. I have a vivid memory of him waiting for his turn to putt. The scoreboard was directly behind me from where he was standing, and he spent a long time studying it. His face had a very serious, business-like expression as he sized up what he had to do to have a chance (I think he was still 4 strokes back at this point.) Then he very calmly stepped up and sank his eagle putt. The place erupted with cheers. I have never felt such electricity in the air at an outdoor sporting event. We all knew we were watching something special.

Jim Gambrell