Tuesday, April 05, 2011

More Reader Memories Of Jack and The '86 Masters

Here are more memories from readers about Jack Nicklaus and his unforgettable Masters victory in 1986:

   My stepson Matt and I watched the Saturday round and decided we would drive to Augusta early Sunday to try and buy couple tickets. We left around 5:00 am and in '86 you could park where the new practice facility is now built. Matt had quickly drawn a hand made sign that read " Need 2 tickets" so we started walking through the parking lot felling very hopeful. Matt was 13 at the time and his first trip to Augusta. In no more than 15 minutes we meet a couple that had 2 extra tickets and we purchased them for $ 40 total!

   We quickly made our way inside and placed our chairs behind 18 green, about 4 rows back. We spent the entire morning walking the course from 1-18. By early afternoon we were back in our chairs ready to watch the full field finish. We both have many memories from that day. One that really stands out continues to be the roars you would hear from all parts of the course and especially the sounds when Jack would make another birdie. From our seats on 18 with our binoculars we could actually see Nicklaus on 15 and the eagle he made there.

   The reception Jack got a 18 was incredible. We where sitting right by the roped exit in back 18 as he and Jackie walked off arm in arm.

   To top off this incredible day, we looked at a portion of the VHS tape when we got home Sunday night. As the groups started finishing on 18 you can see the two of us on almost every shot of 18 for the entire afternoon.

   Matt is back living in Charlotte now. 25 years later is a successful attorney will local law firm. I am sure we will spend part of this Masters on Sunday watching and reminiscing about 25 years ago!

Tommy Saunders

   It's the 1981 PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic and the reigning PGA Champion (1980) is Jack Nicklaus. I bought a visor to save as a souvenir. I'm standing at the putting green when up comes Jack to practice. The crowd thickens and he announces that he is going to putt for 20 minutes and then sign autographs. I'm not an autograph seeker normally, but opportunity persuaded me since I was at the rope.

  When he worked his way down the line he was presented pairing sheets, programs, caps and all sorts of items to autograph. Most, if not all, were crammed with autographs from other participants and Jack did his best to squeeze his in amongst those signatures of mere mortals. When he came to me I handed him a completely clean & new visor and said, "Yours will be the only autograph on that".

   I assumed he wouldn't actually be listening to me or anyone in the throng and just be signing by rote. To my surprise Jack grabbed the visor and proceeded to center a giant 4 inch by 2 inch "Jack Nicklaus" on the bill. He had heard me, and I still have that visor with only Jack's autograph on the bill. He listened and I was forever impressed.

Dennis Smith

   I grew up sitting by my father watching golf every Saturday and Sunday on Wide World of Sports. From the age of five I was a Jack Nicklaus fan. I have been a huge Golden Bear fan my entire life. I had followed Jack Nicklaus each year at the Masters beginning in 1976. In 1986 when I arrived at Augusta on Thursday my father asked me who I was going to follow that year and I quickly replied that, of course, I would follow Jack Nicklaus each day for each hole.

   He gently urged me to consider following a different player with the idea that Jack Nicklaus was not a likely player in the final few twosomes on Sunday. I chose to follow my own game plan and actually followed Jack Nicklaus all four days for every hole. While I been blessed to attend many exciting sporting events, I must tell you that particular Sunday 25 years ago was the most thrilling sporting moment of my life.

   I was one of those folks you referenced in your article briskly walking (running) and was standing on the 17th green when that incredible birdie put went in. My high school and college basketball coach would have been impressed with my vertical jump at that particular moment. I actually have an incredible photo in my home taken by Brian Morgan,a famous golf photographer, that captures that exact moment when Nicklaus made that putt.

   I still get goose bumps when I think about that amazing moment in sports history. I also have a videotape with highlights of that particular tournament that I play occasionally when I need to be reminded of what is possible even when the odds are stacked against you!

   Aside from this memory of Jack, I must say that the reason I was such a huge fan is because of his incredible decorum, poise, smile and sportsmanship. He was a class act each and every time he got on the course and he did much to advance the game of golf.No doubt I will be standing on the first tee this week as he hits the ceremonial first tee shot to begin yet another Masters weekend.

Ann Clark

  My son Jared passed away in 2002......On his wall was a photo of him sitting on Jack's lap......It's a long story, but it is filled with the love of a Dad, a son, and their hero, Jack Nicklaus.....

  Because of Jared's special needs (physical and mental) he would never be able to play sports, but, I sometimes took him with me in the golf cart when I played....I am not a very good golfer, but, I love to watch it on tv, and play when I could....So, one day when he and I went into a golf shop, I bought a tape of Golf My Way, by Jack...........Jared and I watched golf on tv all the time, and of course Jack was always our favorite in the 80's.....We would watch the tape, watch him on TV. Jared would see him and be excited.......

  One time we were in a golf shop, and Jack was on tv, Jared would not let go of the tv until he was off.....The 1986 Masters tape we bought was played over, and over and over in hour home.......In 1987, when Jared was turning 7, I wanted to get a poster of Jack for his room, we couldn't find one anywhere......So I called Golden Bear offices in Florida, and asked where I could buy one. They asked me why, and I told them the story of my son, so they agreed to send me one, and didn't ask me to pay.....

  .About a week later we got rather large tube in the mail, cost them a lot to send it.....I was poster of Jack waving, along with his caddy, Angelo.....It looked like he was waving at Jared. He had signed it Happy Birthday Jared, 1987, Jack Nicklaus. You have no idea how proud I was. We took some photos of Jared with his poster, and mailed a thank you back to him, along with the photos...Professional athletes sometimes do things just for show.........Not Jack......

  .He invited us to come and meet him at the Memorial Tournament in Columbus.....He sent us tickets, etc........Flying with a special needs child, and maneuvering in a special chair on a golf course can be challenging, but, we would not have missed it for anything.....They allowed us to stay in the tournemant office during the day, where Jared could take a nap, get ready, etc. On the day we were sheduled to meet him, they would not let the crowd get close, because it was our time with Jack....

   If you have ever been to the Memorial, the building has a lot of stairs, so as Jack was comng closer, and closer, it was hard to describe how we felt, scared, elated, happy....We also met his wife and son Steve and they were very nice to us also.....Jared had his photo made sitting on Jacks' lap.......it stayed in his room until he died 9 years ago.......My wife was able to get a letter to Jack, telling him of Jared's death......He wrote us back, he said he did remember us, he sent his sympathies........You see, people can have their heros, Dads and sons can have their heros........To us, there is no better hero to a little special needs boy, and his Dad..........

Bill Alexander

I am the same age as Jackie, Jr. and had just turned 24 a couple of weeks prior to that April 13, 1986 Sunday afternoon. You asked for readers to send in our memories of that day, so here are mine.

As background, I wrote my high school senior English paper six years earlier on the subject, a debate if you will, on whether or not Jack Nicklaus should be considered the greatest golfer of all time. My conclusion was yes, he was the greatest ever, but as I submitted that paper to my English teacher in May of 1980 Jack was two years removed from winning his record 15th major. Most golf pundits were predicting that, at age 40, he was done.

   But my English paper not only summarized his extraordinary career accomplishments and compared him to others in the conversation (Jones, Hogan, and Palmer), but as part of my "proof" I predicted, actually I guaranteed, that Niclaus would win at least three more majors and, after that, anyone still in doubt would have to join my conclusion that Jack was, indeed, the greatest of all time.

Obviously, three months later I am looking like a genius after Nicklaus added #16 at Baltusrol and #17 at Oak Hill, but as the years went by my friends would always remind me of my lost guarantee. I suffered through the 1982 Watson chip-in at Pebble Beach, near misses at the '83 PGA and the '85 Masters, and wondered myself if his career was complete.

   There are 18 holes on standard golf courses, you finish your rounds on the 18th green, so 18 was the right number to define Jack's career.

 I graduated from college from the University of Tennessee the previous year and was now living in Charlotte, and my fiancée at the time, Gail (now my wife of 24 years) and I were back visiting family in Knoxville that April 1986 weekend. We needed to drive back to Charlotte on that Sunday afternoon,
and following church we had lunch at my parent's home and were preparing
for the four-hour drive. We packed the car, but before leaving I asked
Gail if we could tune into the Masters to "see how Jack was doing."

   I knew he was only four strokes back, and he had come so close the year before that I was hoping a Sunday charge was on tap. These were times before the internet, before sports radio, before the golf channel. I literally didn't know how the final round was going until most everyone else found out, by
tuning into CBS when they came on the air with the last groups nearing the end of their front nines.

   We turned on the TV in my parent's living room, and before I even saw the leaderboard I watched Seve Ballesteros and Tom Kite, playing in the same group, hole out for eagles from the fairway on No. 8. CBS finally showed the leaderboard, and I saw that Jack was even par for the day and still
well back. Gail wanted to leave and Jack's chances were slimming. If we had left, I would not have known what I had missed until we got back to Charlotte. Again, no cell phones for anyone to provide updates, no smart phones with internet connections, no satellite radio. The young sports fans of today have no idea what we had to endure, but I digress.

   I told Gail, "let's see how Jack starts his back nine first, and then we'll leave." For the next thirty minutes we watch him birdie No. 9, No. 10, and No. 11 to get within striking distance. We weren't going anywhere, although after his bogey at No. 12 I'm sure there was some chatter about leaving, but all I remember is being zoned into that television unlike anytime past or present. It was riveting, not only because Jack was in the hunt, but all of the best players of that era were on the leaderboard.

   My parents weren't even golf fans, but they were in the living room with us glued to every shot with me and Gail, and we weren't leaving until this drama ended. And what drama it was.

  The eagle at 15, the near hole-in-one on 16, Seve dunking his 4-iron in Sarazen's pond, Norman and Kite missing putts that should have gone in, would have gone in any other time, but this story was written years before and Jack was going to cap his career with #18. He was the greatest of all time and he gave us one more to seal the deal.

David Williams

   I had moved from Charlotte to Atlanta in Jan 1986 – was fortunate enough to have attended a few Masters over the years and never turned down the opportunity to go to Augusta. That weekend however happened to be my mother-in-law’s birthday and my wife wanted us to be in town for her birthday celebration.

   So, that’s when the fun begins – I had 2 badges (and hotel room) for Sat and Sun – with my long-term marital bliss hanging in the balance, I in turn gave the Sat badges to my mom and dad and my Sun badges to my twin brother and his girlfriend. Having given up the opportunity to be in attendance at the “Greatest Masters” was something I never really regretted because of who got to use the badges – it was always a fun reminiscing during Masters Week in subsequent years and I was fortunate enough to have been back for a “Freddie” win, a Mickelson win, and a Tiger win.

Brian Park

   Jack won the Greater New Orleans Open in April, 1973 and I was there. What is most memorable to me, however, is the one tee shot I witnessed where he, Tom Kite, and a tall lanky golfer whose name I cannot recall, all hit from the tee. Believe it or not, ALL THREE golf balls were within about ten feet of each other on the drive. There was one other golfer of interest in this tournament, Ben Crenshaw, a rookie, who was as remarkable to me as the Buckeye Bear.

Neil Hohmann

   I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and obviously Jack Nicklaus was a boyhood hero of mine. According to my mom at age 4 I ask the barber to "cut my hair like Jack Nicklaus." I went on to achieve success in high school golf and in the classroom and was awarded a scholarship given by the Memorial Tournament and the Columbus Dispatch in 1996. As part of the annual honoree ceremony and pro clinic on Wednesday, myself and three other scholarship recipients were given our awards by Mr. Nicklaus.

  Most memorable to me was the time he took to talk to each one of us individually for 5-10 before the ceremony. He didn't just read from his note card, hand us the placque, smile for the picture and move on with his myriad duties. He took the time to converse, congratulate, and extend an invitation to me and my family to enjoy his hospitality house on the 18th fairway for the rest of the day.

To this day, I have a picture of Mr. Nicklaus handing me my award and shaking my hand. But most importantly, I remember the sincerity from him during the brief conversation I had with my boyhood idol.

Travis Ball