It was five years ago that we made what we considered a rather daring move and hired as the author of our regular golf instruction series a neophyte professional named Jack Nicklaus. It was not that we doubted that he would become a great professional golfer—we didn't—but there was no way to assure, our readers that the 22-year-old, two-time Amateur champion was a man worth listening to when he talked about a golf swing. Artist Francis Golden was assigned to illustrate the lessons, and Nicklaus began his career as a professional writer at the same tournament in which he first played as a professional golfer, the 1962 Los Angeles Open. On that occasion, in fact, his achievement as a writer (How to Concede and Win) exceeded his success as a golfer—he finished 50th and earned $33.33 in prize money.
So it was with some extra pleasure last week that we watched our home pro win his 21st tour tournament, the Crosby Pro-Am, and it is with pleasure, too, on this anniversary of his original contract, that we offer on page 48 of this issue the 96th of his instructional columns.
Nicklaus has proved to be as exacting with his golf instruction as he is with his play, and as eager as any writer to defend his choice of words when questioned by our editors, or by golfers. One result of his thoroughness is instruction that has obviously been meaningful to our readers (and some other ones, too. A book of the tips, My 55 Ways to Lower Your Golf Score, has sold more than 80,000 copies and is available in three languages).
"I am always surprised about the number of people at tournaments who talk to me about the tips," says Nicklaus. "They will watch me hit a difficult shot, perhaps, and then say, 'Hey, that's just the way you played that in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.' They seem to enjoy recognizing exactly what they have read. Sometimes, however, they will say, 'That's not the way you taught it.' Then I have to stop and explain that this particular situation was a different one than the one I wrote about. I get a big kick out of it."
We were delighted to learn from Nicklaus last week that he has gotten more than a kick out of some of the major articles he has written for us—a Masters preview, two U.S. Open previews and several other reflective articles on victory and defeat. They have actually helped his own game.
"I have found that when I do a preview of a course I am forced to focus my thinking on the problems that I have to face," he says. "I know, for example, that this has been particularly true of the Masters. In preparing my preview of that tournament, I went over the course in more detail than I ever had or would have just playing practice rounds. It may not be a coincidence that I set the tournament record there. When you put thoughts on paper you remember them better."
We will continue to get the thoughts of Jack Nicklaus—on paper—and feel certain that not only will he remember them but that our golfing readers will, too.