DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) – Just a couple of weeks before the start of the 38th Memorial Tournament, Barbara Nicklaus was busy doing some interior – and exterior – decorating.
Huge boxes full of patio furniture were sitting all around the newly reconstructed clubhouse at Muirfield Village Golf Club and the wife of the tournament's founder was directing traffic. She instructed workers where to put a couple of tables, quickly greeted a few visitors and then wiped her brow and pointed to some chairs.
There was a lot of work to be done and the woman who has been Jack Nicklaus' wife for almost 53 years was just the person to get people moving.
When the Memorial Tournament begins Thursday, the field will be strong and the course will be almost unchanged from a year ago. But the facelift to the facilities – set in motion by Jack and completed by Barbara – will be the biggest change for spectators.
“(The clubhouse is) basically almost 40 years old and it needed an uplift anyway,'' Jack Nicklaus said about the buildings, constructed shortly before Roger Maltbie won the first Memorial in 1976. “A friend said, `Jack, you've got a world-class golf course and you've got a 1970s California ranch-style clubhouse. You need to have a clubhouse that matches.' He was right.''
The Nicklauses don't do anything halfway. The joke is that when Jack senses a problem with a hole at Muirfield Village, he brings in the backhoes the day after the Memorial Tournament ends. Next thing you know, a tweak becomes a radical change.
“What started out to be a medium-sized project has turned out to be a very large project,'' Jack said.
The clubhouse and media pavilion, which used to be separated by 75 yards are now connected. They form a horseshoe of a different sort not far from Ohio State's famous football stadium where the Nicklauses still attend games whenever possible.
Dan Sullivan, executive director of the Memorial, won't put a dollar figure on the reconstruction but does concede, “It's a significant financial and construction project. The last time the original clubhouse was updated was 38 or 40 years ago when it was built. So it was a well-timed renovation and expansion that will allow the club to perform for years to come.''
In October, Muirfield Village also hosts the Presidents Cup, pitting the top pros squaring off in a U.S. vs. International team format.
Nicklaus said the buildings needed to be updated.
“You're going to say (the new design) could come from any period,'' he said. “We put pillars or columns on the outside, we changed some of the roof lines, we put some chimneys and dormer windows in and opened up some skylights. We changed the inside and outside.''
There is an updated facade, with the columns replacing the wood siding and shake roof of the old clubhouse. The buildings now envelop the closing hole, providing sponsors' suites, a lengthy patio and numerous viewing areas while retaining the grass hills which hold thousands of golf fans each year.
Off the backside of the clubhouse is a new fitness facility which includes state of the art machines along with private rooms for massages. The semi-trailer chock with workout apparatus which usually follows PGA Tour events won't make the trip to Dublin this year because everything the players need is already there.
Players will now walk toward an enclosed scorer's room as they finish their rounds, rather than a small, cramped room up on the hillside. They can walk to the driving range, the locker room or to interview rooms via an open area beneath the new suites. They can also sign autographs.
“We've created a new space that will allow everything to be a little more fluid, a little bit more in control,'' Sullivan said.
A large clock tower sits in the middle of the connecting building. The clock won't be in place for the Memorial, but a tournament logo will hold the spot until it is delivered long before the Presidents Cup competition.
Nicklaus joked that he spent so much money on the clubhouse that he “couldn't afford'' to make any changes to the Muirfield Village course.
He's hoping the new buildings last as long as the old ones did.
“It'll make things more today and in a timeless fashion,'' he said. “Hopefully we're going to accomplish that.''
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