And Then… I Met Mr. Jack Nicklaus

For the last couple of days, I’ve been sharing all of my golfing adventures with you while I attended the National Golf Course Owner Association’s (NGCOA) annual conference.   Here’s the golf course tour of Shingle Creek and here’s a view of the Golf Industry Show just in case you missed it.

I must admit.  I’ve saved the best for last.  Get ready.  I’ve got a lot to say…

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been blessed with the gift of gab.  That’s probably why I’m able to type out like I’m talking to you.  I pretend it’s just my mom who reads these blog entries, but I’d like to think it’s at least a couple of others.

Hi Mike!

This gift of gab has gotten me into some interesting situations over the years.  Not the least of which is my uncanny ability to embarrass my children.  We’ll be on an elevator and I can have a conversation with a complete stranger.  When the stranger gets off the elevator, my kids will ask, “Who was that?”

I always reply, “I don’t know.”

Is it the friendly Iowan in me?  I’d like to think so, but I don’t honestly know.

Last year, the NGCOA asked me to be on their National Board.  Was it because of my gift of gab?  Probably.  Either that or my inability to say no.  I am just glad they asked, though.  It’s been a fun year!

I’ve written about a few of my experiences from being on the board.  We have two main meetings a year in Charleston.  Here’s a peak at my first board meeting.  Then, you can also click here to read about my second board meeting.  Although it has only been a year since I’ve been a board member, I’ve enjoyed my time and getting to meet new people.  There is a downside which is the travel time and being gone from my family.

Also.  I hate flying.

My daughter also hates me leaving her for days at a time.  Thank goodness for Skype!  I’m sure I look pretty funny walking down the street talking into my phone like I’m a robot, but it keeps my daughter happy.  She’s nine, so I only have a few more years of her enjoying our time together in this way.

To keep my husband sane and my daughter happy, I scheduled my flight for the golf conference so I would only be gone three days.  That’s two nights.  Surely they could handle that!

Then, I got an email that said something along these lines:  You’re invited to a reception with Jack Nicklaus before the main Celebration Dinner.  When I asked for clarification, I was told that this would be a private meeting for the board members.  One small problem.  My plane was to be landing in Des Moines right when I should have been meeting Jack.

After reading this email, I turned to my brother and asked him, “How important is it that I meet Jack Nicklaus?”  The look on his face confirmed what I was thinking in my head.  Luckily, I had booked Southwest and they make it super easy to move your flight around.  I love my husband and daughter, don’t get me wrong, but it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Just like that, I was staying an extra day.  All in the name of Mr. Nicklaus.  I’m sure my daughter will understand some day.

This reception took place before the main Celebration Dinner.  The Celebration Dinner that the NGCOA holds celebrates everything about golf.  Picture the Academy Awards minus the twerking.   There are many awards given out.  Some go to people who have made a difference in growing the game.  Others go the Golf Course of the Year as well as regional golf courses.  There are people who are awarded who have made a difference to the NGCOA and people who have had an impact on golf.   Then, there is the Award of Merit.  The Award of Merit is the longest running award and goes to individuals who have had a long-term and significant contribution to the game of golf.

Yep.  That explains Jack Nicklaus in my book.

The time had come.  While I was visiting with a fellow board member, I watched as Nicklaus walked into the room and was greeted by a small group of people.  Many people were snapping pictures and congratulating him on his award.  It was very exciting.

There aren’t many things that I enjoy more in life than hearing people’s stories.  I love when golfers stop and tell me about playing golf with my grandpa on the course or what they did when they were my age.  Some of my favorite golfers used to tell me about their time of fighting overseas or how they played the trumpet in the band during WWII.  I find that sort of history so incredibly interesting.  Because of this obsession, I thought I would casually eavesdrop on a conversation Mr. Nicklaus was having with some fellow golf course owners.  Hoping to hear a golfing story or two.

As it turns out, Jack was discussing football.  Apparently even one the world’s best golfers talks football or basketball when he’s in a room full of mostly men.

I asked him for a picture and he graciously obliged.

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This reception lasted only a brief while.  I would have loved to have carried on a conversation with him, but time simply didn’t allow.  We walked into the Celebration Dinner and took our seats.  I was seated with the NGCOA past president, Linda Rogers, and her daughter, Michelle.  They run a golf course in Indiana called Juday Creek.  I truly enjoy spending time with them.

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Here are some of my other favorite board members.  They like to pick on me.  Rock Lucas is on the left.  His golf course, Charwood, in Georgia is set up very similarly to ours.  His southern drawl makes him fun to talk to and he has a very easy going personality.  On the right is Bill Stine.  Bill owns several golf courses around the Kissimmee, Florida area.

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Bill likes to pick on me because he caught me and Theresa acting kind of strange in Las Vegas at the golf conference a few years ago.  We had found a statue of a Gorilla, so naturally, we had to take pictures with it.463391_3080659067963_1887386102_o

Unbeknownst to us, Bill and his son, Buck, were standing nearby laughing at us the whole time.  Luckily, I don’t think they caught us when we posed as Marilyn and Elvis.

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There I go again.  The gift of gab.

So.  Where was I?

I was seated at the table with Linda and Michelle.  Across the table were representatives from The Clubs at Cordillera Ranch which happened to be a Jack Nicklaus golf course based just outside of San Antonio, Texas who were one of four nominees for Golf Course of the Year.  I casually asked the superintendent where he studied horticulture.  His reply, “Iowa State University.”

I shouted, “Go Cyclones!”  It’s always fun to meet a fellow Iowan.  Oddly enough, he told me that the thing he misses most about Iowa is Casey’s pizza.  His buddy, the Director of Tennis at the Ranch, could simply not understand how a gas station could possibly have good pizza.  Texan Problems.

When they announced the winner of this year’s course of the year, I was so pleased to hear The Clubs at Cordillera Ranch announced as the winner.  I kid you not.  If you ever go to San Antonio, you need to visit this golf course.  Even if you hate golf, you can still ride a horse through their trails or take a kayak on the creek.  Seriously.  It doesn’t get much better than that!  The other nominees were equally wonderful, but I cannot confirm if their superintendents are graduates of Iowa State or not.

Once the Course of the Year had been announced, it was time to honor Mr. Jack Nicklaus.

He graciously accepted his award and then treated the room to over an hour long session of answers to questions from the audience.  I can attest to the fact that he is absolutely one of the most kind, gentle spirits I have ever met.  I think we might be a kindred spirit because based on his answers to the questions, he’s been blessed with the gift of gab, too!  My favorite comment he made was when someone asked a question and he told us that we should probably sit back and grab another cup of coffee for the upcoming answer.

There are so many great lessons that you can learn from Jack Nicklaus.  He spoke far more about his mistakes and learning from them than he did his successes.  It was surprising to hear how he could recount every single shot he had ever taken on what golf course and the weather and wind speed for that day.  His love for his family was clearly evident in his answers not to mention his love for the game of golf.

When he completed his question and answer session, the dinner closed up and Mr. Nicklaus greeted more people for photographs as well as autographs.  I feel quite honored to say that he even signed one of our 40th Anniversary flags!

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That sums up my story of getting to meet one of the Greats in Golf.  Not to mention an absolute class act of a man.

Anyone else out there get to meet Mr. Nicklaus?  He’s truly one of a kind.

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5 Comments on “And Then… I Met Mr. Jack Nicklaus”

  1. Todd Scott
    February 13, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    I’ve always loved Jack Nicklaus….since I was small. A great man and great golfer. My wife and I went to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary and stayed in Ka’anapali on Maui for part of it. It just so happened that the seniors were playing Ka’anapali that weekend. We walked over to the course to see if we could see anyone we knew. We were leaving that afternoon and the next day was my birthday. I wanted Jack’s autograph! We watched Curtis Strange, Gary Player, Tom Watson come by and finally….there he was. Jack Nicklaus. He did sign some autographs between holes and I was next in line to get one before his son(caddy) told him they needed to get to the next tee. Disappointment. No Nicklaus autograph….no chance to tell Jack how he was the greatest and how I admired him….but I was 5 feet away!

    Next time let him know how I feel…would you Allison…and maybe an autograph…lol! Glad you didn’t miss the opportunity….it would have been a no brainer decision for me.

    • February 13, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      That’s so sad, Todd. Isn’t that the way it always goes? Next in line. If I ever get the chance to meet him again, I’ll be sure to relay the message! Ha.

      At least you got to go to Hawaii, right?

  2. troy cook
    February 13, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    Another one of Todds lies!!! Also, I know that gorilla!! Took a picture of it with the wife…Nicklaus =Class

    • February 13, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

      You’re funny, Troy.

      • Todd Scott
        February 13, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

        Never trust a man with 9 fingers Allison….I have pictures of Jack in Hawaii

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