Golf legend Jack Nicklaus returned to Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island on Monday for the first time in about 30 years and shared his thoughts on a variety of issues in the game.
Nicklaus, 78, designed Pawleys Plantation and Long Bay Club in Longs, which both opened in 1988, and owned a home off Pawleys Plantation’s 14th fairway for a time. Nicklaus’ visit included a tour of Pawleys Plantation, some time on the driving range with junior golfers from The First Tee Coastal Carolinas, and lunch and dinner outings with invited guests.
Nicklaus is a First Tee trustee and longtime supporter of the youth and golf development organization that stresses nine core values to its members.
Some of the Golden Bear’s thoughts during a Q&A with the media:
Q: How hands-on were you with the designs of both this course and Long Bay Club?
A: I was hands-on with both of them. Any time I do a signature course I’m hands-on. I don’t remember how many visits I made but I came here quite a few times during the construction of both of them. . . . Back in that time I was doing a dozen golf courses a year at least, and right here are a couple of them.
Q: As you toured the course what were some of the highlights, maybe some things you had forgotten.
A: One of the things that happened, when we opened the course on the third hole an alligator came out of the water and took my ball off the green. It was something to see the people scrambling to get out of the alligator’s way. It was a pretty good size alligator too. It’s probably still around here. So I remembered what I did over at 13 and 17 out on the marsh and some of the trees that were instrumental. I thought the bones of the golf course were really quite good. There really hasn’t been anything done to this golf course in 30 years, and I think one of the reasons they wanted me to see it was what would I do now to spruce it up, so hopefully they will.
Q: They told you the numbers of The First Tee and how much it has grown over the last 20 years. What does it mean to you to see that it continues to grow.
A: When we started First Tee 20 years ago I liked the concept. What I like about it is you’re teaching kids how to play golf but it’s not about golf, it’s using golf as a vehicle to teach kids lessons of life. I thought that was far more important than a junior golf school. I’ve had the privilege to speak in front of Congress on three occasions I guess, asking for money for The First Tee and doing some things. One of the times I was there was a breakfast and we had two kids from Oklahoma City and Jacksonville. Both of their parents were in prison or drug addicts. They were nowhere in life. They didn’t play golf. First Tee took them, both of them became valedictorians of their class, both of them went to college on golf scholarships. The little girl now is a doctor and the boy is a lawyer, he was an aid to one of the senators last time I was in Washington. You see what happens in The First Tee and you see time after time and instance after instance different kids that have benefited from First Tee.
Q: With the resurgence of Tiger Woods this season, did you like seeing the excitement around golf?
A: There’s a lot more excitement than just Tiger, but Tiger coming back this year I thought was great. I never thought he would come back and do what he’s done. He played actually fantastic this year. People were asking why he wasn’t winning, I kept saying he hasn’t fixed the spot between his ears, the 5 inches between his ears, once he fixed that he was going to be just fine. At the Tour Championship he seemed to get it together and won the championship. As you would expect the next week was the Ryder Cup and he was toast. . . . When you see somebody work that hard and accomplish what he did, he’s going to have a letdown. It’s great that he’s come back. It’s great for the tour, it’s great for the game and I’m happy for him.
Q: What do you think his odds are of catching your 18 major championships?
A: They’re not as good as they were 10 years ago, but he’s probably got another good 10 years of tournament golf in front of him, 40 major championships to win five of them. Who knows?
Q: What do you think of Johnny Miller’s retirement as an analyst and is full-time golf commentary something you ever considered?
A: Nobody likes to retire. I’m 78 years old and I’m not even close to retirement. Johnny did a great job. I thought his commentary was very candid. He didn’t pull any punches, he shot straight from the hip, maybe a little too much from the hip sometimes, but that’s okay. That was his personality and that’s what he does. He’s been a good friend for a long time. I support whatever he wants to do.
I did golf commentary years ago, some for ABC and some for CBS, maybe about 10 years of it. It wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. One of my favorite stories was I was working for ABC at the time in Oklahoma City when the PGA Championship was there. . . . I went out and I missed the cut. There’s nothing worse than missing the cut then having to stay around the weekend and talk about other people playing that golf course.
Q: You have designed courses all over the world, when you look at a fresh course to design what excites you about that?
A: Usually the property. We’ve designed courses in 40 states and 46 countries. I’ve traveled the world extensively not only playing the game of golf but also designing. I’ve had fun with it, enjoying new markets and places where the game is just starting or isn’t even started. We just did a golf course in Turkmenistan, the golf course is 9 miles from the Iranian border. . . . I did it basically for the government for tourism. Nobody in the country played golf. Not a single person. Now golf is going to be one of their sports. So to do that and grow the game of golf is fun. It’s very rewarding. We started doing golf courses 20 to 30 years ago in China, and you see young golfers coming out of China now, boys and girls. It’s kind of neat.
Q: What do you think of the new rules of golf?
A: The rules of golf have always been fairly complicated. I’ve always thought it should be common sense, figure out what is logical, what should happen, what makes sense. One of the silliest rules I’ve always thought is you have a hole with water on the left and out of bounds on the right. If you hit it out of bounds it costs you two strokes, if you hit it in the water hazard it costs you one stroke. Why? They’re basically the same bad shot, so why should one be worth more than the other?
Q: How important do you think the involvement of golf in the Olympics is to the future development of the game.
A: I worked hard with Annika (Sorenstam) trying to get golf into the Olympics. . . . I felt the Olympics weren’t going to make a lot of difference to golf in the United States or Great Britain or the mature golf markets. But to the rest of the world, an Olympic gold medal is the pinnacle of what goes on. In golf usually it’s the four major championships. With the Olympics coming along, to most of the world that’s going to be the pinnacle of what the game of golf is. So you’re going to see golf grow tremendously in China, India, Russia, Brazil, large countries with large populations where very little golf was played before that. I think it can only grow the game of golf and help it. I think it’s terrific. I sure wish we had Olympics when I was playing. I’d like to have a gold medal.
Tickets are still available for David Feherty’s two-hour adult comedy stand-up performance on Saturday night at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center billed as “David Feherty Off Tour: Wandering Around on His Own.”
The charitable performance is affiliated with the Mentor Cup for junior golfers and their mentors on Saturday at Tidewater Golf Club and is raising money for the Gene’s Dream Foundation, which is dedicated to benefiting junior golf. The events have been organized in part by Feherty’s former Golf Channel colleague, North Myrtle Beach native Kelly Tilghman.
Tickets can be purchased through the website www.MentorCup.com. VIP seating and packages are sold out and tickets start at $59.
Feherty is perhaps the most entertaining person in golf. He’s an analyst and on-course reporter for NBC and Golf Channel and has an Emmy-nominated self-titled talk show on Golf Channel that first aired in 2011.
Rounds for victims
Founders Group International (FGI) will be donating $2 per round from all of its Honors Club and Prime Times Signature Card rounds from Oct. 10-31 to Hurricane Florence victims.
The donations will be via Project Golf, which will assist individuals and families in the Carolinas who have been affected by the hurricane and its subsequent flooding. Project Golf is a charitable initiative of the Golf Tourism Solutions marketing and technology agency.
The Prime Times card gives members discounted rates to all 22 FGI courses for an annual fee, and the Honors Club is a premium option. FGI is also accepting donations at its courses’ pro shops. In addition, the Myrtle Beach Golf Passport discount membership program will donate a portion of all Passport green fees to hurricane relief efforts. The Passport is administered by the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association.
Four Ball successful
The 10th annual Wachesaw Plantation Club 4 Ball Invitational this past weekend attracted a sellout of 64 two-man teams from 15 states: California, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Tennessee and Connecticut.
The 54-hole event with a gross better ball format was held at the private club in Murrells Inlet, and winning teams in each of three divisions won $1,200 in pro shop gift certificates. More than one third of the field earned awards.
In the Mid-Am division for players 25 and older, John Lust of Dublin, Ohio and Brian Hicks of Cary, N.C., won by 6 shots over the Grand Strand team of Sammy Truett and Adam Langford with a 12-under 67-67-70–204. Daniel Kopp of Murrells Inlet and Brian Mull of Wilmington N.C. finished third at 213.
The Senior Division for players 55 and over featured 33 teams and was won by eight shots by Duff Wagner of Taylors and Todd Hendley of Columbus N.C. with a 15-under 201. Stephen Couture and Roy Foutz of Roanoke, Va., were second and John Long of Murrells Inlet tied for third with partner Tony Green of Kings Point, Tenn., at 210.
Larry Boswell of Jamestown, N.C., and Ernie Newton of Winston Salem, N.C., won the Super Senior Division (65 and up) at 17-under 199. Wachesaw Plantation member and tournament founder/director Mike Daniels finished third with partner Allan Small of Savannah, Ga., at 207.
The 11th WPC 4 Ball is scheduled for Oct. 18-20, 2019. Interested players can contact Daniels at email@example.com or Wachesaw head Professional Joe Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org.