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Tour pros recall meeting Jack Nicklaus for the first time

DUBLIN, Ohio -- As the PGA Tour stops at the Memorial, we spoke with numerous pros about their first time meeting the tournament's host, Jack Nicklaus. Here are their stories.

Nick Price
Jacqueline Duvoisin/SI
Nick Price

 

Nick Price: "It was probably the most nervous I ever was in my life. I think I probably could've met the Queen of England or the President of the United States and been less nervous. Because as a youngster I idolized him and Gary [Player] and Arnold [Palmer] so much. One of the things that was great about Jack right from the get-go was he treated me as an equal. That meant a tremendous amount to me, the way he treated me on the golf course when I was a 23-year-old rookie. Amazing, amazing man."

 

Gary Player
Kohjiro Kinno/SI
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

 

Gary Player: "I first met Jack Nicklaus in the early 1960's when he played at The Masters as an amateur. What I remember is seeing him swing, and I told him that he was going to be some golfer someday. What impressed me most was that he was very positive in his attitude. Little did I know that he would turn out to be the all-time greatest and become perhaps my best friend on tour."

 

Bubba Watson
Robert Beck/SI

 

Bubba Watson: "I think the first time here I did the clinic with him, he did the junior clinic on the range, so the first time I met him, I had to hit my driver in front of him, and everybody always saw me as a long hitter. I think it was my rookie season, so he's talking to them, and he's telling me to hit the ball in front of them, and I was so scared to hit it. But I had to hit it good. I had to show off for Jack. How are you going to impress Jack?

"I just kept hitting it hard, and I was hoping it would go out so fast that he couldn't see it, so I could go, yeah, it went a long way. He had some age, so hopefully his eyes weren't that good so he couldn't see if it was going right-to-left or left-to-right, he would just see it go real fast."

 

Keegan Bradley
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI

 

Keegan Bradley: "First time I ever met Jack, it was here last year. I had won [the Byron Nelson] the week before, and I came in and he said, 'Great win last week, Keegan.' It was pretty cool to know Jack even knew who I was."

 

Trevor Immelman
John Biever/SI
Trevor Immelman

 

Trevor Immelman: "I was 13 years old, and he came to South Africa because he was designing a golf course. The guy who brought him out to design the golf course was a friend of my dad's. And, obviously, he knew how much I was in love with the game of golf, and how serious I was about it. So he invited my dad and I over to have lunch with him and Jack. And it was unbelievable. Sat next to him for a couple of hours. There I was, just a young kid. Jack and I still talk about it, actually. I learned a lot from him that day, and then was fortunate enough to stay in contact. Spent some time with him down in West Palm once I was a professional, trying to suck up some more knowledge from him, and then obviously I've been coming here for many years. And the most exciting thing is the last few years I've had a chance to spend some time with him at the champions dinner at Augusta. I've been very lucky to have lots of time with him, and he's been very open and forthright with his information for me. It's something I'm very thankful for."

 

Jim Furyk
Fred Vuich/SI

 

Jim Furyk: "I played nine holes with him at Doral, with Gary [Player] and Ernie [Els]. He and I were partners playing against Gary and Ernie. I got the biggest kick out of the trash talking. He just kept yapping the whole time, giving Gary and Ernie a hard time. I didn't expect it, but I got the biggest kick out of it. It was extremely fun, especially since I wasn't on the taking side."

 

Geoff Ogilvy
Fred Vuich/SI
Geoff Ogilvy

 

Geoff Ogilvy: "I can't exactly remember the specific occasion. It was definitely here at this tournament. But I was just blown away at first. Jack was actually sitting at my table. He always comes through and has lunch with guys, has breakfast with guys, and has quite a presence in the clubhouse the whole week. I was just listening to everything he said and just amazed Jack Nicklaus was sitting at my table."

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