Jack Nicklaus on the time he met Nelson Mandela while playing golf with Gary Player
When you’ve won 18 major championships and designed as many courses as Jack Nicklaus has, you get to travel all around the world to play golf. One preferred destination became South Africa, the home country of nine-time major champion Gary Player.
Having spent much time with his friend and fellow competitor Player in his home country, Nicklaus wrote in the June issue of GOLF Magazine that he loves South Africa. When the Apartheid government in South Africa fell in the early 90s, the Golden Bear wrote that he wanted to get involved in the country’s game of golf.
“Simola, in Knysna, in the Western Cape Province, was the first course we designed,” Nicklaus wrote. “Then Pecanwood, in Johannesburg. Pearl Valley, Serengeti and St. Francis Links followed. I also made over a few courses there, including Houghton Golf Club.”
It was at Houghton Golf Club during a round with Player where Nicklaus met Nelson Mandela, who served as president of South Africa.
“He was a good man; a terrific man,” Nicklaus wrote. “Gary and I were playing I don’t remember which hole—maybe 13 or 14—and all of a sudden an entourage of cars came up on the road behind us and stopped. Mandela got out. He walked up the hill to the tee to say hello to me and to introduce himself. I got a big kick out of that, and I was very, very humbled.”
Getting to play golf with Player on his home turf and meet Nelson Mandela? That’s a trip to South Africa Nicklaus would never forget.
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