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June 25, 2013

Jack Nicklaus

Don Padgett

CHRIS REIMER:  We are thrilled to have our 2013 Ambassador of Golf with us today for a conference call to preview the Ambassador of Golf and the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.
Obviously as a player, there's no equal to Mr.Nicklaus, and there's also been no equal to him as a philanthropist and how he's leveraged his position as a sports legend off the course.
We'll get right to it, and I'd like to just quickly introduce Don Padgett, Executive Director of the Bridgestone Invitational, who will give us some words about the Ambassador of Golf award, and Mr.Nicklaus himself.
DON PADGETT III:  Great, thanks, Chris.
Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today.  We are only five weeks out from the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.  This year's tournament dates are July 31‑August 4.
Earlier this month we started the golf course tournament build and the golf course is in great condition, and things are shaping up for a great event later this summer and we look forward to welcoming back the world's best players to Firestone Country Club.
This year we are delighted to honor Jack Nicklaus as the Ambassador of Golf recipient.  This award is given to an award who shares his ideals on an international level and that his concern for others extends beyond the golf course.  There will be a ceremony at 5:30 on July 31 at the first tee on Firestone, and anyone with a tournament ticket is invited to join us that day.
We are pleased to have Barbara Nicklaus, who was the Ambassador of Golf recipient in 1990, present the award to her husband, Jack, and in addition we will have the Ohio State University band on back to welcome their fellow Buckeye.
Jack, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today.  Your career at Firestone started with the 1958 River City Open and you competed many years at Firestone with multiple wins including the 1975 PGA.  You've been at Firestone, competed many years.  Just wonder if you can share your thoughts on receiving this award at Firestone, and perhaps your memories of competing here over the years.
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, it's an honor to be selected, I know that 22 years after my wife, which is very special; she's a very special gal.  And when she received the award, she was very thrilled, as I was, and everyone in our family, they were all there, an enjoyed having Barbara receive the award.  So having me receive it, too, is very, very nice.
I go back with Firestone to 1958.  I was 18 years old.  It was the first true tournament that I ever played, and this is before they changed the golf course.  This was the old Firestone Country Club, and I'll never forget it.  Barbara rode up with me and I shot 66, 67, the first two rounds, and I was‑‑ Art Wall was leading the tournament at 132, I was 133 and Tommy Bolt was is 44.
Bolt was the U.S. Open Champion at the time in 1958, and I was a scared little kid walking down the fairway with both of them.  And Wall‑‑ I remember Bolt putting his arm around me and saying, "Don't worry about it, Jack, old Tom will take care of, you."  And when I made about six bogeys on front nine, he stopped worrying about taking care of me because he had gotten rid of me.  So I certainly look back at it and get a big kick out of it.  But it was a great, great experience.
I remember playing with Julius Boros the last round, and I shot 76 the third round and I shot 68 the last round and finished 12th.  I remember coming home in a car, I said to Barbara, I says, "Barbara, remember there on the 13th hole that chip shot I hit?"
She says, "Oh, my gosh," she says, "the 13th hole, I had no idea where the 13th hole is."  I had no idea he hit a chip shot; this is never going to work.
I mean, all those things came out of that first event.  I remember I played the first two rounds with Charlie Sifford and that's when I fostered a friendship with Charlie.  I remember that my dad was there.  He brought Charlie, after the second round, after we played two rounds together, he saw him smoking cigars all the way around.  So my dad ran and got Charlie some cigars the third day, and he was a long‑time fast friend of Charlie Sifford forever.
We had a lot of fun that week, and that was what started my relationship with Firestone.  1962, we had the World Series of Golf there.  It was a $50,000 first prize, and I think because Arnold and Gary and I had won the three major championships that year, I think Arnold won two of them, he won the Masters and the British Open and I won the U.S. Open and Gary won the PGA; we played the World Series, I won it.  Gary and Arnold tied for second, I shot 135; they shot 139.  It was more of the start of my love affair with the new Firestone, because I won several of the World Series of Golfs, they used to call them exhibitions, because there was only four of us playing.
Through that time, I ended up developing a relationship with an old Firestone employee, Scotty Brubaker, and we ended up doing a golf ball through Firestone that we sold.  It was one of the largest selling golf balls sold in Firestone stores for years, the Jack Nicklaus Ball, and I played with it for years and years and years.  It was an inexpensive golf ball, but it was a great experience having the association with Firestone.
Then we went on and went into the American Golf Classic, and I guess‑‑ trying to think, I guess I had won that in '68.  I remember that was one of the great experiences I had was a playoff with Lee Elder and Frank Beard.  Frank didn't last a long time in the playoff, but Lee and I did.  I remember holing a long putt on every hole, including the last one, to win a five‑hole playoff.
And of course, along came the PGA Championship in '75, and that was one I won by a couple shots over Bruce Crampton.  It was the old famous shot for me was the 16th hole, I think that was where I was back behind a tree in the last round, and Rosburg was the announcer at the time, and I remember hearing him say:  "Oh, he's got no chance."  And I as soon as I knew that I had no chance, I knew that it wouldn't be a very hard shot, because Rosburg he always had you in trouble; you couldn't get out.
I hit 9‑iron up over the trees, I think 138 yards, got it over the water and holed the putt for my par.  I had driven it in the water on the left to start with and hit a 6‑iron down the right behind a tree and knocked it up on the green.  I do remember that particular part of it, and of course I went on and won that by a couple shots over Crampton.
I guess my last win at Firestone was in '76.  I won the World Series of Golf again, but that was when it was a full field, and I guess I shot about 275 that year, big tournament.  And the last time I played it I think was when I hurt my back; that was maybe 1981 I think.  I think I was standing on the practice tee on the last round, and I was hitting a tee shot and went right to my knees.  I remember them having to take me into the clubhouse and I think I was maybe four shots back or something going into the last round, so I never got a chance to do that.
I may have played again, I don't remember, but Firestone was always a special place to me.  I won a lot of tournaments there.  Made a lot of friends in Akron, and I'm sure you've heard too much from me already, so I'll let you ask some questions.

Q.  Curious when you first started playing in the World Series of Golf, did you think it was a good idea?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, for me it was a good idea‑‑ win $50,000‑‑ do I think it was a good idea?  I thought it was a very, very special event.  It was a made‑for‑television event.  I remember that there was a lot of build up on it.  It was Walter Schwimmer Productions, I think put it on.  Obviously it was on television and not many events were on television back then.
You know, you had the three best players in golf at the time playing against each other.  Yeah, I thought it was a very special event.

Q.  Did it allow your public to see your friendship with them that maybe they wouldn't see otherwise?
JACK NICKLAUS:  I don't know about the friendship, back those years, it was 50‑some years ago, we were all friends, that was not an issue.  The issue was, was who was going to win.  We were all so darned competitive, we all wanted to beat each other's brains out.  And then we went out and had dinner afterwards.

Q.  I'm out in Long Island at Sebonack at the U.S. Women's Open, where maybe you can just detail briefly in a minute or so, when we see that golf course this week the women are playing where maybe your design influence was most evident?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Where do I think it was most evident?  My involvement at Sebonack, my involvement at Sebonack was‑‑ Doak and I worked together to do a golf worse.  I think that we both did routings.  I think more of Doak's routing was used than mine.  I think he did a better job of routing than I did and I think his routing was actually quite good.  I liked his routing.  We went with his.  I made a few changes but not many.
The strategy of the golf course I did, the way the golf course played from tee‑to‑green.  He had his dozer operators up there, because that's the one that Pascucci liked the look of what he had done out at Bandon Dunes.  So he had the control of the greens.
I think the greens are tough.  The girls are going to struggle with them I think.  I tried to soften them a little bit, but I think that they are probably a little on the difficult side.  But I hope the USGA doesn't keep it as fast as they probably keep them for the membership.  But I think it's a terrific golf course.
I think it's a fun golf course to play.  As long as the greens don't get away from you, the girls will enjoy it.  I think they need to accept it for what it is; it's a seaside golf course with some movement in the fairways and some movement in the greens; but one that they have to produce good golf shots on and one that they are going to have a good short game if they want to win a U.S. Open and I think that's what a U.S. Open is all about to be able to use all the clubs in your bag.

Q.  I know you're very fond of Firestone, you've made that clear over the years; is there anything that you would change about Firestone and the layout?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, we redid the golf course probably, I'm guessing, sometime in the 80s.  Maybe early nine tees, but we redid the greens when we did it.  I changed very little on the golf course.  I thought the golf course was a good golf course.  I think it was originally done by Trent Jones, Senior, if I'm not mistaken on the redo. 

Q.  Yes, you're right.
JACK NICKLAUS:  And Senior did a pretty darned good job with it.  I think the only thing about the golf course, and it's only because of the nature of the property, that 16 of the holes run north and south, and the fifth and sixth holes are the only ones that run east and west.  But there's nothing you can do about that.
But as a test, I always thought Firestone, it only has two par 5s, one very reachable and very playable early in the round, and of course 16 was the monster hole.  The par 4s are strong.  I think it's a really, really good test of golf.  I think that the only thing that happened through the years is as the golf ball has gone longer, it makes all golf courses play a little bit shorter.  Probably doesn't have quite the teeth that it had in its early years.

Q.  The 16th gets a lot of notoriety because of its length.  But in your opinion, do you think it is the toughest hole on the course, or no?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Oh, I don't know.  It's got the water there in front of the green.  If you take it and play it as a same manner‑‑ play it about a 3‑wood off the tee and play about a 5‑iron down the fairway and play a wedge on the green, it's not a very hard par 5.  Sure, the water comes in play occasionally.  Sometimes you drive it in the rough or you hit a second shot in the rough, it makes your next shot more difficult.
But I would think that‑‑ I always thought the fourth hole was an awfully difficult hole.  I thought that 6 was difficult and 9 was a difficult hole.  Let's see, 13 could be a difficult hole.  I think there's a lot of very strong holes on the golf course.  Most of the stronger, more difficult holes were the par 4s, not necessarily the par3s or fives.  Threes were good, strong holes, but they were all pretty good‑sized greens, so you had a little bit of forgiveness in that.

Q.  You've played in, probably a million cities, in probably front of hundreds of millions of fans; how would you rate the Akron fans when it comes to supporting the event and attending the event?
JACK NICKLAUS:  I don't know, I haven't been there for a long time, so I don't know what's there now, but we always had amazing support.
What always amazed me in the Akron area, it's a good‑size city but it's not a huge city, and they managed to support two events every year.  They usually supported the World Series of Golf and the American Golf Classic, and they supported them both.  And they had other events that have come in; the girls have come in; they have had the PGA Championship.  You had a lot of events there, and it was always supported well through the city.
I think they have always done a good job of selling the tournament, and I also thought the people there did a good job of supporting it.  It's always been a favorite of a lot of guys to go there, because they know there are going to be people there that are enthusiastic golf fans.

Q.  Do you think Firestone gets its‑‑ me being here in town, I don't see what kind of reaction Firestone receives around the country, but do you think it receives the accolades that it deserves?  Do you think it's recognized as one of the finest courses in the country?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Oh, I think it's always been one of the finer courses in the country.  I don't think anybody would question that.
I think that there's just so many new golf courses and a lot of the old golf courses have had so much work done on them; I don't think Firestone has had that much work done on it.  It's stayed pretty consistent about what it is.  It's stayed the course.  It didn't have to make many changes because it was a good, solid golf course.
I don't know what‑‑ it seems as though the golf ratings come from the flavor of the day, and I don't know whether Firestone is the flavor of the day today.  In the 1960s and early 70s, it was definitely the flavor of the day, and I think it still withstood the test of time.

Q.  One of the unique things about this ward is that Barbara preceded you getting that award; can you talk about the uniqueness of getting an award that Barbara has already gotten, and just to follow her footsteps?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, you know, any time you follow my wife, that's a pretty good person to follow.  And so I know that to get that award is a nice award, and certainly to have two of us in the same family receive the same award, I think we are a proud family.  So, it's quite nice.  I'm happy that I am now included in the Ambassador of Golf award, and it's one that I treasure and think very highly of.

Q.  Along the lines of Barbara winning the award, you mentioned all the family was there in '90; are they all coming for this?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, I think they all go in separate directions today.  I think that the painting that was done at the Ambassador of Golf award for Barbara was of the whole family.  It's one we have in our house today, and it's a very, very nice painting.
Today all our family has their own families.  I'm sure that there will probably be some there, I don't know who, but you know, you don't ever miss something when Barbara does it.  You may miss some things when Dad does it.

Q.  Is she giving you any grief about what took you so long?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Well, no, she really didn't.  She's actually been very nice and quiet.

Q.  I'm here at Congressional asking a lot of golfers here about you, and they all marvel at the way you balanced your family and professional life; do you think you did anything differently than maybe they do now?  Curious about how you managed that.
JACK NICKLAUS:  I don't know how the guys do it today.  I think they have a lot more pressure put on them by press and by money than we had; I mean the amount of prize money and the places to go for the professionals on top, we didn't have that.
Also, I always took the philosophy that golf was a game, and that my real life was my family, and that that was the most important thing to me.  As long as my family was in good order and they were progressing nicely and my kids all knew their father and they all knew that I loved them; that that was what was important to me.  And then if I could play golf besides that, that was just fine.
Golf did not dominate my life; my family dominated my life.  And that ‑‑ they talk about that, about not being balanced; that made me balanced, and that's the way I wanted to lead my life.  I always felt that my family was first, my golf was second and my business was third.
So that's what I did, and that was not a burden on me.  Matter of fact, that was a pleasure, because I grew up having some of the great pleasures in life, spending time and doing things with my kids and being part of their events that probably had I sort of had golf dominate my life, I would have missed a lot of my life and I certainly wouldn't trade any of it for another golf tournament.

Q.  There was so much made of Mickelson flying across the country for his daughter's graduation; did you in anything like that?
JACK NICKLAUS:  I did a lot of it.  I flew in from Akron a couple times for a Friday night football game and went back up.  But that's all right, those are things I did.  I think Phil has done a nice job was a father.  I think a lot of the guys on the TOUR do a nice job as a father.  I talk to a lot of the guys, and a lot of the guys are a lot closer with their families than probably is made out in the papers.  But it was certainly an awful lot made of Phil going back and forth, but a lot of the other guys do the same thing.
CHRIS REIMER:  We want to thank you again, Mr.Nicklaus, for joining the call, and we look forward to seeing you at the Bridgestone Invitational, and Barbara and as many of the family as can make it.
Don, I know that you wanted to maybe mention something about some other special guests we'll have as part of the ceremony?
DON PADGETT III:  Right.  We will have the Ohio State band that will be there to play some songs, and look forward to having the crowd enjoy that and Jack will enjoy that as well.
CHRIS REIMER:  We will be launching a social media sweepstakes in which we give fans a VIP experience at the Ambassador of Golf dinner and maybe they will even get to take a picture with Mr.Nicklaus.  I'm sure you'll be Tweeting all about that, right, Jack?
JACK NICKLAUS:  Oh, yeah (chuckles.)
CHRIS REIMER:  Thanks again, and we look forward to seeing you all at Firestone.

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