By Jason Bruno (April 2014)
Jack Nicklaus is the greatest Champion our game has ever seen, he knew how to take a tough loss with grace and he knew how to console and respect his challengers after they were defeated by him. When he walks into a room you feel it, it’s a strong presence. Much like Arnie, Jack William Nicklaus is the sports hero to so many . . . and he carries it well. He knows how important he is to those and doesn’t shun that responsibility.
Nicklaus was on hand as the honorary Captain of the American Team of Mid & Senior Amateurs at the opening ceremonies for 1st Annual Concession Cup on Tuesday, April 29th 2014. It was an honor to sit down with the Golden Bear for a brief Q&A about the Concession Cup, Amateur Golf, Course design, and the Ryder Cup at his course in Scotland, at Gleneagles.
LinksNation: It’s been 45 years since the actual Concession putt was given to Tony Jacklin at Royal Birkdale in the 1969 Ryder Cup, can you look back to it’s origins and today . . .
Jack Nicklaus: I didn’t think it was a big deal, it was just a short putt. Tony (Jacklin) thought it was a big deal, and the golf world did too I guess – to me it was just the right thing to do at the time, now they have a golf course here called the Concession named after that event. Tony’s done a great job here with the theme and Ryder Cup memorabilia, now to have an amateur event with Tony and I as honorary captains is very special. Hopefully it will be a great event and the players will enjoy the golf course.
LN: These are some of the best Mid Ams and Senior Amateurs in the world, there should be some high quality golf, your thoughts . . .
JN: You’ll see some good golf, no question about it. People will enjoy seeing them play.
LN: This is quite the stage for many of these players, as you stated in the press conference – Amateur golf is where it all began for you.
JN: Some of these players are former Walker Cup players and some have not played in an international competition before, those players will see it as a new experience and I think will enjoy it. The ones who have, will enjoy a renewing of that experience, two years from now it will be played in Great Britain and back over here in another two years, being played on a bi- annual basis. It’s kinda neat much like the Walker Cup – that’s the thing that launched my career, because of the Walker Cup, I played in the Masters, I got into the British Amateur, the U.S Open that year. I got into all kinds of things because of the Walker Cup.
LN: When Tony (Jacklin) pitched you the plan and concept to build this course, was there a plan for this course to become a champion- ship type venue for an event such as this?
JN: Yes. He wanted to have a championship course, that’s what Kevin Davis (The original owner) wanted when we first started. He wanted to have a strong golf course if we were going to have an international competition, with the golf course being suitable to handle that. I think the golf course might be a little too difficult for its membership at times, it will certainly test the best players in the world.
LN: How has your design philosophy changed or evolved over the years?
JN: It changes everyday, it depends on what I’m doing. To tell you what my design philosophy is anymore, I’m never sure. It all depends, a lot of people say it depends what side of the bed I get out of in the morning.
LN: I’ve noticed in recent years, the green complexes you’ve designed have become much more challenging, your thoughts . . .
JN: Now I’ve gone the other way, I’ve gone from flat greens, to smaller greens, to larger greens, to rolling greens to difficult greens to mild greens – I’m in a mild green state right now. That’s the side of the bed I got up on this morning.
LN: Has that been influenced by developers or members ?
JN: Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, depends on who you’re designing the golf course for and what they’re trying to accomplish, what they really want and what the property is – that determines what you have to do.
LN: I’ve talked some with John Sanford (A mutual friend of Nicklaus and I & an accomplished course designer himself working with the Nicklaus design team on the Ferry Point project, can you expound on that?
JN: It’s been 10 years in the making or 12 years I suppose, certainly hope that we got it pretty close to right . . . since it’s taken a while doing it. It’s for the city of New York, it’s right at the Whitestone Bridge in the Bronx, you’re looking at the New York/Manhattan skyline. The golf course is strong. They wanted a golf course where they could host a World Championship event. They could hold a Championship event on this golf course . . . they could hold a U.S Open, or PGA Championship or anything else they want to hold there. It’s an old dump site that we covered with sand. There aren’t any trees on the interior part of the golf course, there’s a lot on the outside of the golf course, but the interior is basically sand. We moved the sand around and created a links style course which seems to fit there very well, it’s on the water . . . the wind will be a great factor there.
LN: I know you’re close friends with Tom Watson, what will he bring to the Ryder Cup team this year that maybe the past few captains haven’t?
JN: I don’t really know from a tangible standpoint, but from an intangible standpoint – Tom is a great winner, Tom’s won 5 British Opens, Tom is loved in Scotland . . . the players will all look up to him, and respect him. So there are many intangibles there, tangibly you’re still going to have to play golf. The players that will play golf well will win, it’s on my golf course at Gleneagles – the golf course is a strong course. If the weather is good, they’ll shoot some good scores on it, if the weather is bad they’ll struggle on the golf course – like they would on many Scottish courses in the weather. It will be a great event and I think Tom will do a great job as captain.