A visit with St. Nicklaus

In my youth, I dressed up and pretended to be Jack Nicklaus. I had a couple of advantages when I was 12, like a squeaky voice, and the fact that in the early 1970s it was okay for a kid to wear the absurdly flared polyester nut-squeezers favored by Tour players. (Looking back, the tightness of Jack Nicklaus' trousers might well account for the fact that I had a total lack of pubic hair until I was 27, and why I can still yodel with the best of them.)

In the deadly serious world of the 12-year-old Tour player, getting first pick in the hero role-playing department was a lot more important than who got to hit first. The name Nicklaus struck fear into the quivering spleen of Lee Trevino, who had a speech impediment and only four clubs, and positively pureed the bowels of Gary Player, whose mom used to drag him squealing off the course by his ear if he hadn't done his homework. Being Jack usually meant victory, but it was a total drag when he lost, because Jack had to be graceful in defeat, which was tough to pull off when Arnold Palmer was dancing gleefully around the 18th green, flashing you his pimply bum. As I recall, Tom Weiskopf could be a complete swine, too.

Then I grew up (okay, that's crap) and turned pro, and after several years of desperately chopping my way around every Nicklaus course I played, I began to think my childhood hero was a landscape gardener on acid. Every time I set foot on the first tee of one of Jack's golf courses I lost 70 points off my IQ, and my confidence hit the deck faster than Paris Hilton's pants. I decided that this couldn't possibly be MY fault: there was an obvious design flaw in Jack's work, a theory I frequently shared with the tabloid pencil-squeezers with whom I drank after such disasters. Feherty's play was usually more quotable than notable, and I became known as a Nicklaus-basher. But I never really worried about that. I mean, it wasn't likely I'd have to look the man in the eye, right?







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