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Thursday, July 14, 2005

So long, Jack

This weekend marks Jack Nicklaus' last time to play golf competitively in the British Open. To mark the occasion, the Royal Bank of Scotland is issuing a special five pound note, an honor it has only bestowed upon Queen Elizabeth and her now late mother, the Queen Mum.

For me, Nicklaus' 18 major golf titles are summed-up in a sultry Saturday at the Oak Hills country club in Rochester, New York in the late summer of 1980. The PGA Championship was in town, and Nicklaus was teeing off on the par 4 first hole. He put his second shot nicely up on the "dance floor," and was walking down the fairway. Everyone knew that he would score a birdie if he sunk the next putt. As he came by, about 30 yards away from where I stood with other spectators, lining the rough, something came over me. "Put it in!" I yelled to the passing legend. Is it just my memory embellishing things, or did Nicklaus really scan the crowd, catch my eye, smile faintly and nod his head in agreement? Whatever happened, 5 minutes later, I heard a roar go up from the crowd. I rushed up to the edge of of the green and asked one of the spectators what had happened. "It's Nicklaus," he said. "Just sank a 50 foot putt for birdie." The Golden Bear went on to win the PGA that year, and as Paul Harvey says, now you know the rest of the story.

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