Golf

Jack Nicklaus revisits his first PGA Championship win at Dallas Athletic Club

Courtesy Dallas Athletic Club

Jack Nicklaus didn’t remember much of his first PGA Championship victory. Walking around Dallas Athletic Club’s Blue Course earlier this month brought back memories of only a couple shots from that 1963 tournament.

But, as Nicklaus said smiling, “I don’t remember a shot … except I shot the lowest score.”

Yes, Nicklaus did.

Nicklaus overcame a three-stroke deficit going into the final round to win his first PGA Championship, and third career major in July 1963 in Dallas. Nicklaus went on to win five PGA Championships, which is tied with Walter Hagen for most all-time, as part of his record 18 majors.

The 101st PGA Championship is taking place this week at New York’s Bethpage Black, and Tiger Woods will be going for his fifth PGA Championship to try and join Nicklaus and Hagen in the five-time club.

Nicklaus expects Woods to be in contention once again, but remains hopeful that Woods doesn’t break his record of 18 championships.

“Nobody ever wants their records broken,” Nicklaus said. “Nobody wants that.”

Either way, Nicklaus is pleased with the career he put together. He only recalled a few major championships he could have won that he didn’t.

One happened to be the 1963 Open Championship when he bogeyed the final two holes and was one stroke out of a playoff between eventual winner Bob Charles and runner-up Phil Rodgers at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club in England.

Nicklaus made up for that loss the following week with the PGA Championship win at DAC.

Other near-misses Nicklaus mentioned included the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Colorado when he shot a 39 on the back nine and lost by two strokes to Arnold Palmer, and the 1971 U.S. Open when he lost in a playoff to Lee Trevino at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania.

“You can always go back and find a shot,” Nicklaus said.

Nowadays, though, Nicklaus joked that nobody wants to watch him play. At 79, he doesn’t have the game he once had.

“I’m a solid 6 handicap on the board,” Nicklaus said. “I’m a pretty good pro-am player … as an am.”

But that 1963 PGA Championship is something special for Nicklaus and North Texas golf. It’s the last time a golf major was held in North Texas, and the course is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Nicklaus remembered the heat throughout the week with temperatures in the 100s, as he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy with a towel during the trophy presentation

“I was sopping wet the whole time,” Nicklaus said. “But you know? Go to Dallas in July, you know it’s hot.”

Nicklaus fired a 3-under 68 in the final round to win by two strokes. Bruce Crampton, the 54-hole leader, finished third after a 3-over 74 in the final round. Dave Ragan finished second.

Nicklaus enjoys reminiscing about his glory years, and talking about going against other greats of his era such as Palmer, Trevino and Tom Watson. But he’s also stayed relevant to today’s game with approximately 30 PGA Tour players being members at his course, The Bear’s Club, in Jupiter, Florida.

“I’m sort of the senior spokesman,” Nicklaus said. “[PGA Tour players] will come and talk to the old man at The Bear’s Club. I get a kick of that. It keeps me relevant, keeps me involved.”

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan spoke at the AT&T Byron Nelson kickoff luncheon on Thursday, and had good things to say about both golf events in North Texas. He sees the market as essential for the game for years to come.

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