Missouri Golf Post

Pre-Tournament Interview: Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player


PHIL STAMBAUGH: Okay, we welcome two of the greatest players ever to play the game, 27 major titles between them, two of five to complete the modern Grand Slam, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player back together again for the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf. Maybe a quick comment from each of you about playing in this event at a special place.

JACK NICKLAUS: I’m cold. It was freezing this morning. You get to play this afternoon, don’t you?

GARY PLAYER: I do, yeah. You’ve played already?

JACK NICKLAUS: I’m done already. I hit four hybrids and two drivers, but I got to most all of them.

GARY PLAYER: Which course did you play?

JACK NICKLAUS: This one, the par 3.

GARY PLAYER: You’d better be better tomorrow than hitting drivers on this course. The wind was blowing, huh?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, yeah, the wind was blowing.

GARY PLAYER: Well you built it, it’s your fault.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. Actually, what did you ask us, Phil? Anyway, Gary and I played last year. We enjoyed it. We didn’t do very well. Gary promised me he would play better this year so I asked him back to play again. No, we had a nice time. I think it’s kind of fun to come down here. Been a good friend of Johnny’s for a very long time, as has Gary, that’s basically why we’re here.


GARY PLAYER: I endorse that. It’s obviously nice Jack and I don’t play the Tour anymore and we competed against each other for so many years and traveled the world together. Nick Faldo said something very interesting at Augusta, I went on his radio show, and he said, you know, we had our big three in our day, Nick Faldo, Ballesteros, I can’t remember who the third was, whoever it was. He said, We never traveled together, we never stayed together. I’ve spent a lot of time in Jack’s home, at his actual home, and he’s been to my ranch in South Africa many times, and Arnold went down the gold mines with us and we went to the game reserves. We’ve actually spent a great camaraderie. We all wanted to beat each other and that’s a healthy sign. That’s what made America so great, and now friendship. And we beat each other and said “well done” and mean it. But at the same time —

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, you meant it?

GARY PLAYER: Look, my fingers are crossed. But we traveled the world together. Really, I don’t think you’ll ever see that again in the history of sports. It was a very unique situation, the three guys who could be so competitive. If we can’t — all the majors, seniors and regular, we must have won 54 major championships and over 350 titles worldwide, and yet we traveled the world and lived basically together. You’ll never see that again.

JACK NICKLAUS: You calculated that?

GARY PLAYER: Well, I read a little bit, you know. I’m not living in the hills like you.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay, okay.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Before we go to questions, a comment from each of you on the uniqueness of this event, playing on a par 3 course.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t even know, where are we playing tomorrow?


JACK NICKLAUS: Okay. And we play 18 holes tomorrow?


JACK NICKLAUS: Is the event the same format it was last year? I didn’t even ask.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Other than the alternate shot.

JACK NICKLAUS: What’s that? We play more than an alternate shot?

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Best ball at Buffalo Ridge.

GARY PLAYER: But we play best ball one day —

JACK NICKLAUS: I have no clue what we’re playing, I mean zero.

GARY PLAYER: And then it’s better ball at the other course, isn’t it?


JACK NICKLAUS: You lost me because I don’t even know what you’re talking about. What are we doing here tomorrow? Seriously, I don’t know.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Modified alternate.

JACK NICKLAUS: What’s modified alternate shot?

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Both of you hit a tee shot.

JACK NICKLAUS: Then we just pick up —

Q. You choose which one you want.

JACK NICKLAUS: Okay, fine. We’ll really do well with that.

GARY PLAYER: We need a mulligan.

JACK NICKLAUS: Then we play the other course is best ball at Buffalo Ridge, is that where we’re playing, is that the course? Then we come back here and play nine holes Sunday morning, then you get to send us home? What are we playing Sunday morning?

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Playing modified alternate shot, no?


GARY PLAYER: No, it’s best ball on Sunday.

JACK NICKLAUS: Best ball on Sunday? Anyway, that’s the format guys, I’ve got it down. I don’t play golf anymore and I don’t really pay much attention to it. I’m here because Gary’s my friend and we’re going to have a good time and we’re going to do our best to try to see if we cannot finish last, maybe even finish first, and enjoy the week.

GARY PLAYER: Yeah, I feel the same and I think that Johnny Morris has been very kind to both of us. I think what he’s doing, I’ve never seen the likes of this, and to think that he’s not even nearly finished yet. Every time you come here you see something that is astounding. Last night I was just so impressed with —

JACK NICKLAUS: Johnny is never finished, Gary. If you knew Johnny at all, Johnny is continually trying to improve everything that he’s got. He’s terrific in that way, he’s terrific.

GARY PLAYER: He’s unique. He’s actually a genius, he’s a genius. He came to my farm, I was telling a few guys for those of you who weren’t there last night, I said he came to my ranch in South Africa. Nobody understood a damn word he was saying. And we invited a lot of rednecks out there and they were all chewing Red Man and then they got very friendly together, but I pull his leg about that. He’s always — he and I are doing things on my golf course, on my farm, every day I move big rocks. They’re moving them right now as we sit here, these big rocks. So when I come here, I’m just fascinated to see what he does. And to have such vision. We went in the cathedral, Jack, and you could just see the view.

JACK NICKLAUS: Isn’t that where we are?

GARY PLAYER: No, I’m talking about the top, at the actual cathedral. You should look in there, the actual cathedral, people sit in the church. You should see the view in there, it’s inspiring.

JACK NICKLAUS: You mean downstairs?


JACK NICKLAUS: There’s another level? Okay.

GARY PLAYER: He’s amazing. I hope that — you know, to live here and to raise a family in this part of the world is also very special.


Q. It’s a pleasure to have you both back here at Ozark Mountain country again at Top of the Rock. Just wanted to see your reaction to some of the thoughts, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore made the announcement of The Ridge development here. I just wanted to see what you both thought of that and what kind of a draw that’s going to be to our area as well.

JACK NICKLAUS: I can think Gary and I would answer it the same way. Both of us didn’t know anything about it and we both would like to have done the job ourself, right?

GARY PLAYER: I think it’s a wonderful addition to have — he’ll probably have six names attached to this resort, or development. I think development is better. That’s incredible. I mean, it’s fascinating. Then where do you have hunting incorporated and fishing and trail walks and museums? You just don’t see it in the world.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t think that was your question, though, was it?

GARY PLAYER: No, it was your question.

Q. It was pretty close. Obviously it’s drawing you both here to the area, it’s drawn many of your close friends who you share the greens with during the tournament. I guess if I had to ask you to predict a little bit of what the implications could be a couple years out of what other names and some of your friends that could come here to the area possibly for development purposes or beyond.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know.

GARY PLAYER: I don’t think we can answer that. That comes from Johnny, that comes from Johnny.

Q. Welcome again. Just talking more and changing course here, no pun intended, but the family course, how do you think that will inspire more families to come together?


Q. The family course. How will that inspire more families to come together?

JACK NICKLAUS: What’s that? What’s the family course?

GARY PLAYER: No, Jack doesn’t know that — if I may answer that because we are doing the family course and, you know, what Jack has done here with this nine holes is remarkable. I mean —

JACK NICKLAUS: You’re doing a course now?

GARY PLAYER: Yes, a family course.


GARY PLAYER: What Jack did here with this par 3, I mean, I see it as — and I mean, I think Augusta’s par 3 is absolutely unbelievable but this is definitely better than Augusta’s par 3. This is the best par 3 course I’ve ever seen. But Jack also had said something paying tribute to Johnny, he said, you know, we designed the golf course but Johnny’s come here and enhanced it, and those are the kind of owners you want to have. And ours is probably a 9- or 12-hole golf course for young children to come along and start the game, not a tough golf course.

JACK NICKLAUS: Where are you doing that?

GARY PLAYER: On the side, big new clubhouse. He’s going to have I believe the main — the clubhouse on the top is going to be the clubhouse for all the golf courses. So it will be right next to that —

JACK NICKLAUS: Where is that?

GARY PLAYER: Buffalo Ridge.

Q. You can see the clubhouse from Buffalo Ridge.

JACK NICKLAUS: The clubhouse for the other golf course is on top of the hill?

Q. What was Murder Rock is now going to be the clubhouse.

JACK NICKLAUS: You’re going to redo that golf course, is that what you’re doing?


JACK NICKLAUS: Another golf course?

Q. Crenshaw is taking over that one and there’s another one.

JACK NICKLAUS: Crenshaw is, what, redoing that golf course?

Q. He’s built one from scratch on that property.

JACK NICKLAUS: That was a daily golf course, wasn’t it?

Q. Yes.

GARY PLAYER: No, no. The daily golf course is the course that Johnny is going to do it in-house, I think. He’s going to do a golf course in-house.

Q. The daily golf course is gone. It’s not a redo. It’s the property that Murder Rock was on is now going to be a Crenshaw-Coore course.

JACK NICKLAUS: That’s what I’m saying. He’s going to take that property and build a golf course on it.

Q. Yes.

JACK NICKLAUS: And then the course that we’re playing tomorrow or whatever day it is, it’s a Fazio course?


JACK NICKLAUS: And Gary, you’re doing a course next to Murder Rock or whatever it is?


JACK NICKLAUS: And we did this thing, and what else —

Q. Watson did the putting course.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, Watson did a putting course.

GARY PLAYER: Arnold did the —

JACK NICKLAUS: Arnold did the driving range, okay. Now I’ve got it straight. I had no idea.

GARY PLAYER: But I think Johnny’s doing something in-house.

Q. There might be, but it’s not on those properties.


Q. Jack, you said you don’t play much or very much anymore. What was the thrill like at the Augusta par 3 course when the ball went in the hole and that roar? Did that rekindle some echos of glory past?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, actually it was loud enough that I could still hear it, to start off with. The ball went in the hole and I could almost see it. No, no. It was kind of funny because I mentioned before going out about what are you going to do today. Scott van Pelt said that. I said, well, obviously we’re going out and try and the par 3, that’s what everyone’s going to play it for, otherwise why would you go bother to play. I said, maybe if I win the par 3 they’ll think I need to go back and play on the regular Tour because nobody’s ever won the par 3 and won the tournament too. So obviously I was just kidding about that. And I said, well, of course while we’re out there we might as well make a hole-in-one. Someone said something, I don’t know who it was. I said yeah, that’s what we’re going to focus on, then we’ll make a hole-in-one today, we’ll do our best to do that. And of course I made a hole-in-one. I had no idea, a 123 yards, hit an 8-iron as hard as I could hit it, which is what I did. Hit a good shot and the ball got up, started coming back and could hear the yelling going up around the green and we could see the ball coming back on the green and then it disappeared. You know, that’s the first hole-in-one I’ve had for, I don’t know, 10 years or so. Gary and Arnold were I were all tied at 20 about 10 years ago and Gary’s had 10 since then. He has a par 3 course at home, about 40 yards, he plays them every day. Arnold’s still at 20 and I’m now at 21. So I guess I’ve got to go to work to catch you.

Q. Anyone hit you up for drinks?

JACK NICKLAUS: They had a party at the club that night, on Wednesday night. There was a chairman’s party that they had for us, a cocktail party for all the —

GARY PLAYER: And you know he never paid.

JACK NICKLAUS: — all members and all the dignitaries, all that kind of stuff. Barb and I walked up to the party, there was about a thousand people there, and everybody said, oh, hey, thanks for the drinks, because everybody’s kidding me that I’m going to buy the party that night, which would have been all right, I didn’t care. Actually, I never got hit up for anything, I’m surprised. You always buy drinks, happy to do that. You don’t do that that many times in your life you get to buy the drinks, that would be all right.

Q. Jack, I was here when you initially opened this course that day.

JACK NICKLAUS: How long ago was that, ’97, ’98, is that about what it was?

Q. Remembering back to how awesome I thought it was at that point, I’m just kind of curious if you could expand a little bit on your relationship with Johnny Morris and how your friendship has developed since you initially opened up here and some of the common bonds that you guys have together that has strengthened that relationship?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, we did the little par 3 course here and it was just a little par 3 golf course. You know, it wasn’t anything fancy. It was okay. It was a nice little par 3 course. But Johnny, I remember had an owner that wanted — actually seemed like he wanted my guy there all the time from then on. I think Johnny Gardner, one of my guys who was up here, and he spent a lot of time here. He just keeps, he keeps adding things. I think the shell of the golf course we did is here, but that’s all that’s here. All the cart paths, all that. The first hole was a hole that went down the hill and went away from you. Put all the dirt behind it and all the rocks and made it into an amphitheater. It doesn’t resemble anything that we did. The holes do, but what he’s done to the golf course, it’s a beautification project. It was a half a million dollar golf course and a $20 million beautification project. I have no idea what he spent, I have no clue. That’s just an exaggeration one way or the other. Maybe the golf course at half a million was an exaggeration, too. But I think Johnny kept — Johnny and I talked a lot about it here and there and he said he wanted to do this and do that and so forth. I said, Johnny, hey, as long as you’re not changing the golf course from our standpoint, we’ll work with you to do whatever you want, but the beautification, I leave that to the owners. I just did a golf course in Russia that we did the golf course and we did a landscaping plan for it. We make a landscaping plan, might spend a half a million to a million dollars really landscaping a piece of project. He spent $17 million. That’s not my call. That’s the owner’s call because I’m not going to spend his money, he’s got to spend his own money if he’s going to do that kind of stuff. And the waterfalls and all the things that he’s done just made this a very, very unique place. And it’s not only here he’s done that. I mean, we were in Dogwood Canyon, is that unique or not unique? It’s fantastic. Every place you go, I guess the shooting club we go tonight, every place that we go, he just continually is a guy who’s got a great vision. He’s obviously had great vision to take Bass Pro Shops to do what he’s doing, and he’s building a Worldwide Sportsman right next to my office in Florida. I talked to Johnny about wanting to — I said, can we come over there, we’ll put in a tower type thing and we’ll move our offices from our office to over there. I’d love to be doing things together. We talked about it and so forth. He’s too far down through zoning. We may come back and back-zone it and do something after he does it. His continual vision of what to do and grow and so forth, and he’s a private company, he can do that. I spend — I go two or three days a year where I go to a Bass Pro Shops. We fill up the baskets for all the grandkids’ presents and all the hunting stuff and fishing stuff and everything else. I’m obviously not the only one, thousands of people do that. That’s why his business is so terrific because people think they get good value, they get a good product and they know what Johnny’s put there is done well. So that’s — and he does the same thing with everything he does.

Q. Gary, is there anyplace in the world that you have not played golf that you would like to play?

GARY PLAYER: No. I would say that 63 years of travel and I basically have been to every country that I would like to. I suppose there are places in the world that I’m naive about that I would enjoy seeing, and I probably will see them because I’m still going to do an awful lot of travel. I enjoy travel. You know, when you make a comparison, when I came to America in 1957, it took 40 hours to fly here with children and there were no jets. It took 40 hours and you stopped four places, in some very unusual places. So now you get on a flight for Delta and you fly to Johannesburg and you fly nonstop in 15 hours. For me, it’s a piece of cake. A lot of people, in their mind it’s a lot. So you travel from here to India and China where I’m going continuously, all nonstop flights. It’s just remarkable, and it’s going to get better. So I enjoy traveling. There are some places I’ll probably see — I would love to go to Alaska. That’s the one place —

JACK NICKLAUS: You’ve never been there?

GARY PLAYER: Never. I want to go fishing.

JACK NICKLAUS: Really? Well, then why are we bothering to go to Canada, let’s go to Alaska instead.

GARY PLAYER: Because that’s been arranged. We are going to Canada, to the outback and do some fishing.

JACK NICKLAUS: I’m letting him take me on a fishing trip. He doesn’t fish and I’m going on a fishing trip and he’s organizing it. He says we had better make our accommodations early so we can get the best accommodations. I sleep in a tent, I don’t care about that. He’s got to get the best accommodations, he doesn’t care about the fishing.

GARY PLAYER: Only because we’ve got our wives going.

JACK NICKLAUS: Barbara doesn’t care, either.

Q. I had a question on the major charity that’s receiving the donations and all that. Yesterday we did the dedication for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial that the money from this event helped us make for them, and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the fact that you’re playing for a charity that’s donating, trying to pay respect to those veterans. Do you have any thoughts on that?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you know, I think that I’ve been involved in quite a few of those kind of situations. Doing a golf course out on the west coast, which as a matter of fact we’re opening up, dedicating the opening of it about six weeks from now, American Lakes Veterans Hospital or Veterans Golf Course, and the time I’ve spent out there was sort of a revelation to me. They had Ken Still, who I used to play — played on the Tour and played the Ryder Cup with Ken in 1969. Kenny called me and asked me if I would get involved with this golf course. Of course, we did and we donated our time as to Landscapes Unlimited did the golf course. But to go out and meet the guys and watch — he had these veterans who have lost their limbs or got the posttraumatic syndrome, they’ve got all these different issues that they have. Golf has allowed them to move back into society, allowed them to re-enter and re-enter on a basis that’s on their terms, not somebody outside forcing them to do something. It’s been, I think it’s been fantastic. We’re working at — I don’t know how much we’re going to get done but there’s two courses at Fort Belvoir outside of D.C. that we’re working with the people there to try to do a similar type thing to readjust for their veterans. Obviously been involved with Folds of Honor for a little bit with that. To watch these guys and the work they do for the one percent to protect the 99 percent is something pretty unusual and pretty sensational. I didn’t serve in the military, I didn’t have the opportunity, but I have an opportunity to serve the guys who did. It’s been very rewarding, and I did not realize that that’s what the charity issue — it all goes to veterans here?

Q. What we did is we built a — the state of Missouri’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial is on the campus of College of the Ozarks and that’s what al the money went to is to honor the (inaudible) from the state of Missouri.

JACK NICKLAUS: That’s fantastic. And Gary’s been very passionate about that also. It’s great. I think it’s nice that that’s happening.

GARY PLAYER: My brother at the age of 17 — think about that, age of 17 — left South Africa to fight with the Americans and the British. So obviously I vividly remember the Vietnam War, and the soldiers that came back were not welcomed if you remember very well to the extent that they should be. We should be idolizing them. So it’s wonderful that you’re doing that, well none.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Larry Nelson was at the ceremony yesterday.

JACK NICKLAUS: Oh, did he?

Q. Thank you for your kind words about veterans. As an 82nd Airborne Division veteran, appreciate that. The bar upstairs has the black marlin that you caught. I’m sorry if you’ve already talked about this. Can you tell us a little bit about that? It’s a world record as we understand.

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the black marlin there’s a replica of the one I have in my house. Johnny asked me if he could have that replicated and I said sure. The black marlin that’s there is the largest black marlin by measurement that’s ever been caught. Still is. Caught in 1978, Great Barrier Reef Ribbon Islands. I hooked the fish at quarter of 5:00 in the evening, had a 14-pound Bonita was my bait, 130-pound test line. At 10 minutes after 11:00 I boated the fish. Six hours and 25 minutes. Jerry Pate filmed the whole thing, so he’s got all 10 jumps. We have the film somewhere. I don’t know whether Johnny has it here, but we have it. The fish when we got it in, they said it was going to be — it would be the — probably definitely the Australian record, probably the world record, can we get it weighed. Well, it’s 10 minutes after 11:00 at night, we’re a hundred miles offshore and had three reefs to cross, so we couldn’t even start until the morning so we can see where we’re going. The fish was out of water for 12 hours, 12, 14 hours, 12 hours. So about noon the next day we weigh the fish and the fish weighed 1358. It was 15 and a half feet long, 7-foot girth and 29 and a half inches at the base of the tail, which means when you get a heavy base of the tail, that means that weight goes all the way up the fish. It still to this day, it’s the fourth largest by weight that’s ever been caught. Didn’t get the world record because it probably lost 10 to 12 percent of its weight because it was out of water for that long. That’s that fish.

GARY PLAYER: How about that, 130-pound line. That’s the question, what are the odds of bringing in a fish that heavy for that long without something happening?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, Gary, that’s why records are made. I mean, 130 line is about as heavy as anybody uses. It’s what they use for the big fish. But yeah, there’s a lot of things happening, you get the sharks, you get a lot of things happening. I tell you what we do now, it’s like tarpon fishing. Tarpon fishing, we used to fish 12-pound tippit with 100 pound shock leader for 12 inches of shock leader. By the time you got the tarpon in, the tarpon was — you get 100 pound-plus fish, the tarpon was worn out, the fish was exhausted. You release the fish and the sharks get it. So everybody changed to 20-pound tippet because you can land the fish in half an hour or less, the fish is not worn out, the fish is still lively, you clip the line, the fish goes, the fish lives, you’ve had your fun. You don’t have to kill the fish. So I haven’t killed a fish in years, anything, unless we went out and wanted to catch a tuna or snapper for dinner. But basically we release everything we catch. Most all I do, I don’t do anything but fly fish anymore. Most of my fly fishing is saltwater fly fishing, do a little bit of freshwater but not much. To me, that’s one of the beauties of fishing. You can get your prey and it lives for another day, where hunting is a little different. Generally speaking, if you’re going to shoot something, you’re going to shoot it.

Q. After six and a half hours, who was more worn out, the fish or you?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, do you want me to finish the story? I didn’t, I didn’t finish the story because I didn’t bother with it. Anyway, this is before the Australian Open. Lietzke was on the boat, Crenshaw was on the boat, Jerry Pate was on the boat, a couple friends of mine from Ohio were on the boat. Anyway we came in, we weighed the fish on a Sunday morning and it was, you know, it was — we were so worn out, we were going to go back out but we decided — but we stayed with Kerry Packer, sort of an Australian media mogul sort of ran the tournament or sponsored the tournament so we stayed at his house. So we all went down to his house and I didn’t move on Monday. I went out on Tuesday and topped my tee shot off the first hole. I’ll never forget that. I mean, I could hardly even swing. Wednesday, we played the pro-am, which was a total waste of time, and Thursday I went out and shot 74. I was really ticked because I had taken the trip to Australia and let a fish really interfere with really what I went down there for. So anyway, I shot 74 in the morning, came back in the afternoon and Lietzke and Crenshaw were playing tennis and Kerry Packer came back from the office and he said, Why don’t we just take these guys on? I said I don’t want to go change. Oh, you don’t need to change, we’ll just play in our loafers and golf clothes, which I did. We beat them in that, but I hurt my shoulder. So I’ve got a shoulder sore, I hurt my knee fishing trying to bring the fish in. So that night they have a press party and the press is all there. I don’t know if you guys ever remember Butazolidin or not, but it’s an old horse medicine that they used to use for anti-inflammation. They banned that years ago. Anyway I put Butazolidin, I had an ice pack on my shoulder, my arm was in a sling and I’m at the press party. I could never forget Miller Barber. Y’all remember Miller Barber, right? Look at him, look at him, he don’t care no more, he never going to win no tournament, he don’t care no more. Anyway, so going through this thing at the party. So anyway the next morning I get up, I can barely lift my arm. I’ve got to go try. To make a long story short, I went out and shot 67 that day and won the tournament. So that’s the story of my Marlin. Did you play that year?


JACK NICKLAUS: C’mon, I had to beat you one year. Gary won seven Australian Opens, I won six, so that tells you how much international golf we played down there together.

Q. What was the name of the medication again?

JACK NICKLAUS: Butazolidin They use it on horses, it’s a horse medicine. They use it for inflammation. But they thought it was just too strong and too many side effects. I’ll tell you one thing, I used it a lot when I was younger and it works.

GARY PLAYER: But you know the sad thing listening to Jack here now and the great enjoyment that fishing gives, and if you look what the Japanese are doing to the ocean today, and thank God for New Zealand who are fighting them, a great battle as we sit here, slaughtering the whales and slaughtering the dolphins, which are so dear to us. My wife has swum with the dolphins in southern Africa, it’s an experience that’s unbelievable. The United Nations are now saying that by the year 2050, unless there’s a moratorium, which my brother, who is leading or running the world’s leading conservationists told us long ago, unless there’s a moratorium, there will be difficulties. Plus the fact that five to six billion people’s sewage goes in the ocean every day. Even in the United States, No. 1 country in the world, in San Diego they have a pipeline that goes out in the ocean three miles and all the sewage goes out there. When it rains they close the beach for a week because the sewage comes back on the beach. So the ocean is being absolutely destroyed, which is a tragedy.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know if you realize his brother was the person who saved the white rhino from extinction. Ian was at Hluhluwe, which is a game preserve. Try to spell that one.

GARY PLAYER: H-L-W-E. That’s a hell of a word.

JACK NICKLAUS: Anyway, Gary took us down there and Ian showed us all around, but his brother saved the white rhino. He was an unbelievable conservationist. Passed away last year, right?

GARY PLAYER: And had one young American boy and one young American girl from every state go through the wilderness experience, which they’ve all never forgotten in their lives. And also started the canoe race through crocodiles and all snakes and everything and started that race, which now there are probably 300 people that take part in it.

JACK NICKLAUS: 200 make it.

GARY PLAYER: That’s right. Their motto is, If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em. Even has a plaque in the San Diego Zoo in his honor. He sent the rhinos to these zoos in America, thank God because a horn today, what is happening with people from Asia —

JACK NICKLAUS: Ridiculous.

GARY PLAYER: — for a million bucks they get for a horn so they take a power saw and just cut it off and just leave the animal alive.


GARY PLAYER: It’s a tragedy. And they’re saying it’s an aphrodisiac and you can buy Viagra on the market and yet they’ve got to try and invent something new.

JACK NICKLAUS: Anyway, sorry.

Q. What a spectacular night last night, and both of you, the words that you shared were very, very special. As you just talked about with your black marlin, Jack, everybody knows you as the legendary golfer but very few people know you as an accomplished and a passionate sportsman, not only with a rod and reel but a bow and arrow. In fact, Johnny Morris said you’re the most majestic fly caster he’s ever seen.

JACK NICKLAUS: He exaggerated, I promise you. I fished with Lefty Cray last year and I wanted to go crawl in a hole.

Q. Well, Lefty’s certainly in a another league. Some years back you and I talked at Augusta about a gobbler you had just gotten back from the taxidermist you had taken with your bow and arrow and my question is, what is the greater challenge, sinking a 20-foot putt on No. 9 here at Top of the Rock or sending an arrow through a very nervous gobbler at 20 yards?

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, I think the gobbler at 20 yards, making a putt here at 9 — well, depends how old you are. This one might be tougher now. But I haven’t turkey hunted that much but I’ve gotten a couple with a gobbler — or a couple with a bow. But I went to Africa, except for the dangerous game, I did all my hunting with a bow and I thought that was fun. To me, I took — I started bow hunting when I was — my kids were probably — 35 years ago I suppose maybe, maybe 40. Anyway, I took them — my kids wanted to hunt. I never hunted game, I always was a bird shooter. That’s what my dad did and that’s what I did. I never had an interest in shooting anything. My kids said, Dad, we don’t want to shoot birds, we want to go hunt deer and elk and so forth. I said okay. So I started in Montana and we drew as a family in Montana bow season and we did that for 12 straight years. I don’t know how we did it, but we got drawn every year. For 12 years we went bow hunting, saw a ton of elk. Never drew our bow back one time, and we saw a lot of elk that we would like to have shot. First year we went with a rifle and I said no, no, no, no, no, that’s killing, that’s not hunting. I didn’t like that, I just thought that’s too easy. I said, if you’re going to do something, earn it, and I think bow hunting, you have to earn what you do to get into an animal and be able to get there. So that’s what we did. After 12 years I said, okay, guys, maybe let you guys find someplace where we can kill something, so I started taking them to Arizona and New Mexico and places like that. My kids still hunt today with a bow. None of them ever take a rifle. All my grandkids take bows, and when we go hunting, I take them one trip a year to Texas for whitetail, which I have a friend, it’s a high fence ranch but even the little kids, they all got bows, they all have it. So we have a great time with it. I don’t do much, I don’t do much hunting anymore. As I said, I much prefer to release what I’m after rather than killing it. And basically all I do is bonefish now, that’s what I mostly do.

Q. Johnny has the Archery Hall of Fame at the granddaddy store in Springfield. If you ever get by, you need to go but we would love to have a picture if possible of you, your children, grandchildren with their bows I think is an appropriate place —

JACK NICKLAUS: Good luck, good luck to have a picture. When I got the Congressional Gold Medal a couple weeks ago, that’s the first time they had been together in I don’t know how many. You try to get 22 grandkids together with their parents, that’s pretty hard to do.

GARY PLAYER: Bob (inaudible) funny enough, before he died I was visiting him and he was aware of Jack because news gets around that Jack was hunting with a bow, which he always advocated. And now in South Africa you’ve got people raising lion and he was so disgusted, they shoot from 80 yards to a 100 yards away with a telescopic sight and they think they’re heroes at shooting it. You know, if you’ve got to hunt — there’s a difference, like Jack said, killing and hunting. And my personal belief, I don’t believe you should have to have — be allowed to use a telescopic sight. At least have a gun with a normal sight, but bow and arrow is the fair way.

JACK NICKLAUS: Do you remember the first time we went hunting, Cape Buffalo we chased?

GARY PLAYER: How about this? Think about this. This is in our prime of competing against each other. JACK NICKLAUS: 1966. GARY PLAYER: So now he visits this game reserve, beautiful game reserve.


GARY PLAYER: Yeah, Mala Mala. You just cannot imagine what a beautiful place it is. You’ve never lived until you’ve been to a proper game reserve in South Africa.

JACK NICKLAUS: Michael Rattray.

GARY PLAYER: He just sold it.

JACK NICKLAUS: How about that. Is Michael still alive?

GARY PLAYER: Yes, he is, but he just sold it for something like 500 million.


GARY PLAYER: So anyway, now Jack wants to shoot a buffalo. Now let me tell you, a buffalo’s killed, other than a hippo, as many people as polio’s killed. I’m serious. I’m thinking Jack’s going hunting. Crikey, if a buffalo kills him, the whole of America is going to say Gary Player had this arranged, okay? So now I make sure I said to Michael, I said Michael, I want you to get the two best hunters you’ve ever had to be right at his side. And Jack wounded it, and we were going to go to my ranch that day but we didn’t, we went the next day. The whole day — he wounded it and the whole day they chased after it and —

JACK NICKLAUS: Well, you went.

GARY PLAYER: Yes, but you were the one that had the gun and I always stood behind you. Jack said, you get in front. I said, oh, no, no. You give me the gun, I’ll walk in front.

JACK NICKLAUS: I had never hunted anything and they told me where to shoot and they said shoot it in the shoulder, so I shot it in the shoulder. Not behind the shoulder, I shot it in the shoulder. So here’s this animal with one leg dragging. We chased this thing outside of Mala Mala. He went to another game reserve, went through that game reserve, we had to get permission to go through there. We went through the second game reserve and we had to go through the third game reserve. We had to call back to get permission to be able to chase the animal through the third game reserve. Remember that?


JACK NICKLAUS: Gary Laughlin was with us. Anyway, we got permission, but it took about an hour to get the permission and the buffalo had gone down and it was a high reed area and he went down and circled around in the high reed area and you could just where he had been standing there pawing where he had been. And had we been able to go, he would have been on top of us.

GARY PLAYER: Yeah, he would have.

JACK NICKLAUS: Then the buffalo moved on, went about another hundred yards and turned around and did another circle and came back and waited for us. Now, we never got the buffalo. The buffalo kept moving, kept ahead of us. We could never get another shot. We must have chased this thing 20 miles, 25 miles.

GARY PLAYER: At least.

JACK NICKLAUS: And we left, and after we left, two days later the people called us saying the buffalo was back grazing where he originally was shot. Back grazing.

GARY PLAYER: It’s amazing.

Q. This is a little off topic, but the Golf Oklahoma Hall of Fame has inducted Charlie Coe in its first class this fall. What are your remembrances of him as an amateur?

JACK NICKLAUS: Do you remember Charlie?

GARY PLAYER: Very well. He finished second to me when I won Augusta in ’61. I knew him very, very well, played a round with him.

JACK NICKLAUS: You didn’t see him warm up that day.

GARY PLAYER: I didn’t see him warm up.

JACK NICKLAUS: Charlie Coe was hysterical.

GARY PLAYER: Was he drinking then?


GARY PLAYER: He did end up drinking a lot, didn’t he?

JACK NICKLAUS: Charlie Coe, 1961, he finished second. Went out to the practice tee and Charlie’s breakfast was one or two Cokes, three cigarettes and go play. He went out on the practice tee, he had a 7-iron in his hand. He shanked three 7-irons. He said, that’s enough, and walked to the first tee.

GARY PLAYER: And he had a putt on the last hole to tie me, I think around 30 feet, and it just missed. He was a hell of a player.

JACK NICKLAUS: I said to Charlie a thousand times, I said, Charlie, why in the world would you want a Coca-Cola, caffeine, stimulus? He said that’s just the way he always did it. That’s the way people back — some days, that’s the way they did things. I played Charlie in ’59 at Broadmoor and Charlie, I was on the Walker Cup team with Charlie earlier that year when we played at Muirfield. Charlie was a real good player. I don’t think that — because you talk about the coffee and the — or the Cokes and the cigarettes and the stimulus, he was never — I don’t think he ever had the mental — mentally wanted to play because I don’t think he felt his body could handle it. But he was —

GARY PLAYER: Who was better out of Charlie and Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi?

JACK NICKLAUS: Pretty similar, pretty good tossup because they’re all three really good players. I thought Charlie — and I liked Charlie a lot. I played a lot of golf with him but I just — his personality was never one who could turn pro is what I’m saying. That really was the point of what I’m talking about. But he was a heck of a player. He won the Amateur in ’58, and then of course I played him in ’59 at Broadmoor, so he was defending champion and I beat him in the finals there.

Q. Remind me, what was the key to your victory?

JACK NICKLAUS: The key to it?

Q. Yeah, in your match.

JACK NICKLAUS: I don’t know what the key was. I know that we were all even coming to the last hole. I think that’s probably what you’re asking. It was probably the key to my career, not necessarily my — not necessarily that. We were all even coming to the last hole and we both hit 3-woods off the tee and Charlie hit an 8-iron, and it just creeped over the back side of the green. So I played a 9-iron, hit it in eight feet short of the hole. Charlie chipped the ball about like that, right down the hill. So here I am a 19-year old kid and I had this eight-foot putt to win the tournament which I knocked in the hole, which was probably the most important putt ever made because all of a sudden I now knew and I believed that I could make a putt to win something significant and it put it in my head that I could make that putt when I needed to make it.

GARY PLAYER: Was that the U.S. Amateur?


GARY PLAYER: He chipped it that close?

JACK NICKLAUS: It was going right down the hill and looked like it was getting ready to fall over the edge of the cup and it stopped just short. But anyway, that’s the question you were asking, yeah.

PHIL STAMBAUGH: Gentlemen, good luck this week.

JACK NICKLAUS: It was a very important putt for me.


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The Missouri Golf Post is a monthly digital magazine that “celebrates the people who play the game.” Each monthly issue contains several “feature” stories on golfers, golf courses, and/or major tournaments of interest statewide. Each issue contains a number of regular departments on topics such as Tournament Summaries, Fitness, “The Superintendent’s Corner,” Instruction, and Rules.


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