As for Nicklaus, he belonged to McCormack even before turning pro.
"This is very important," says McCormack. "Jack was the first golfer to have an agent before becoming a professional, so he was able to start out right. I want to make one thing very clear. Everything I have I owe to Arnold Palmer. He's the greatest golfer in the world and I could never have accomplished these things with anyone else. He is also my best friend. But Arnie is 33, while Gary is only 27 and Jack—well, you have to remember that Jack Nicklaus is only 22. With the way golf is booming now, what he might accomplish before he is through is unbelievable. Fantastic."
Nicklaus had won the National Collegiate championship, the National Amateur twice and finished second and fourth in the Open as an amateur. But no one was willing to bet that he would step right in and start taking the pros apart. Except, perhaps, McCormack. What Nicklaus has done, of course, is to win the Open (in a playoff with Palmer), win the $50,000 first prize in the World Series of Golf (beating the only other two competitors, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, by four strokes), and earn over $100,000 in prize money his first year on the tour.
As a result, Player and Nicklaus are incorporated like a German munitions firm, too: International Golf Exhibitions, Ohio Golf Exhibitions, Sports Syndicate, Inc., Plamac Associates, Inc., etc. Gary also drives a Lincoln, drinks Coca-Cola, wears Pleetway clothing and Footjoy shoes, plays First Flight clubs ( America) and Slazenger clubs (elsewhere), swings with Golfpride Grips, flies Sabena Airways, publishes through Prentice-Hall and eats raisins (at $400 a month) furnished by the California Raisin Advisory Board. "The blokes out there heard that I liked raisins," Gary says, "and now they send them by the ton. If I keep this up I'm going to turn into a bloody raisin."
Nicklaus, in less than a year under McCormack's tender care, contributes his name and fame and swing—and his back and lungs and feet and even his armpits—to Liggett & Myers, Revere Sportswear, MacGregor, Slazenger, Mennen, Simon & Schuster, Buick, General Time watches, Glaser Brothers slacks, United Sheeplined Clothing and much, much more. The contract with MacGregor, a division of Brunswick Corporation, was signed before Jack turned pro, a privilege for which Brunswick is rumored to have gambled a quarter of a million dollars. McCormack will neither confirm nor deny the figure, only terming the contract itself revolutionary. Also fantastic.
In all negotiations, the controlling figure is McCormack: politely firm, thoroughly demanding. From such meetings, the party of the second part frequently emerges feeling like a man who has had his pockets picked just before being hit between the eyes with a two-iron. At first Palmer tried to sit in. "Some of those early sessions were gassers," says McCormack. ' Arnie would get very upset. He didn't understand all the legal gibberish, he didn't understand why I had to be so insistent. Arnie doesn't like to see other people upset. As a matter of fact, I don't think that he completely understands the system yet. But now he leaves everything to me. I still take each deal to Arnie or Gary or Jack for approval, but none of them sits in on negotiations anymore."
Like most men who have converted a brilliant idea and uncommon energy into sudden success, McCormack often wishes that he could let go of the tiger's tail. "I'm making more money than I ever believed possible," he says, "but I don't have time to enjoy it. The house is wonderful—except that I'm never there. I built it right across from the country club, and I haven't played a round of golf there this year." He once saw three or four movies a week; now he considers himself fortunate to see three or four a year. His record collection gathers dust.
"It's not really so bad," says Nancy McCormack, "except that we don't see him much anymore. And even when he's home, he's restless. He took Father's Day off to spend with the boys. He went out in the backyard and pushed Breck and Todd in the swing for half an hour. Then he came into the house and looked at me. 'What do I do now?' he said. I sent him off to the office.
"The important thing is that he is making a success out of something that means a great deal to him. These first two years have been kind of wild, I'll admit, but I believe that everything will begin to settle down now."
"I'm not so sure," says McCormack. "I have some ideas that—well, we'll see. Anyway, I'm having a great time. I've always loved to travel, and here I am traveling all over the world. I mix socially with people I once only read about, celebrities from show business and government and finance and sport. And who do I play golf with? The three best golfers in the world, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. When you stop to think about it, this whole thing is fantastic."