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July 12, 2005

Jack Nicklaus


JOHN HOPKINS: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm going to tell you about something that we're going to give Jack another thing that we're going to give Jack. The Association of Golf Writers introduced the Michael Williams Award for outstanding services to golf. We did so because we felt that there were people who had achieved outstanding things and golf and had not been garlanded in laurel leaves for doing so.

Jack Nicklaus has done outstanding things in golf, and has been recognized for doing this. No one could doubt that he hasn't. What we have seen here earlier is a further example. But we in the Association felt that we had to honor Jack with our award. We simply had to honor him. There were no two ways about it, because of what he meant to those of us who inhabit this tent and to our predecessors who worked in the forerunner of this tent when Jack arrived for his first open 43 years ago.

Think of that number 43. Some of you today were not born. It was a time when Harold McMillan was Prime Minister, a wall divided Berlin, and television in this country was black and white.

From that day to this we've covered Jack Nicklaus more than we've covered any other golfer. He has given us more to write about than any golfer. He has played longer and better in major championships than any other golfer. He has helped us to get golf on to the front page of our newspapers and magazines as well as the back page. He is and has been quite simply a thread of strong cotton running through the fabric of golf.

Now it's not just his 18 professional major championships that we're giving him this award, it's not just his three victories in The Open nor the fact that he's played in The Open for most years since 1962. It's not just that he helped revive the Ryder Cup, that he stood for fair play and honesty and integrity, it's for all these achievements and many more.

It is said and Jack has said it again just now that St. Andrews is his favorite place in golf, the place where the game started, the natural place for his career to finish. It is probably the favorite place in golf of many of us here, too. The place, incidentally, and most happily, where the Association was founded in 1938.

So if this was the most natural place for Jack to end his competitive career, then it was also the most natural place for us to honor him for that remarkable career.

Jack, you more than most, know the importance of holding a curling downhill putt, but not even you will ever really know how much you've meant to us and the Association of Golf Writers for the past half century. I've got great pleasure in asking Judy Williams, Michael's widow to come over and hand over this trophy to you with our thanks (applause.)

JACK NICKLAUS: That is very, very, nice, thank you.

JUDY WILLIAMS: I'm delighted to have the opportunity on behalf of the Association to hand this over to you, particularly as 7 years ago I came to Muirfield Village for The Memorial, and where you honored Michael in the Hall of Fame. And I'm just delighted to be able to reciprocate this today.

JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you. Thank you very much. And I can't tell you how much being over here and being able to sit down with you, the writers, over here through the years has been an experience for me.

I know that the press today is a much different animal than when I started coming over here 40 some years ago. However, there's still a lot of fellows who remember the old guard, Michael (Williams) and Pat Ward Thomas, and (Henry) Longhurst and right on down the line. And the guys we've got the same guys in the States that we used to be able to sit down with and have dinner with and say anything you wanted to say and you knew it was not going to appear in the newspaper the next day. And there's still a lot of that today.

And I think that part of the beauty of a relationship with an athlete and the press is being able to sit down with them and being able to talk with them and being able to candidly tell you how they feel and go through it and not worry about the next day being nailed for something you've said, because everybody talks in many different ways, as you know. And people talk and they make jokes and they kid around about different things.

The relationship that I've had over here with your press, John, has been, I think, wonderful. I've really appreciated that. I've appreciated your kindnesses and I'll miss it. (Applause.)

End of FastScripts.

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