"Don't get me wrong," said Nicklaus, " McCormack can generate a lot of money, and he did for me. I'm grateful for that. But I never saw a financial statement, and I object to the grab-it-and-run philosophy. You get so much for this account, how much are they getting, and what are the long-range possibilities? Endorsements by professional athletes have been overdone. Some of them are laughable. People doubt their credibility."
What his group came up with, Nicklaus said, were more meaningful, long-range relationships with each account. He does not just fly Eastern, he is the airline's "golf pro"—advising its executives on their golf tournaments, putting on clinics. He does not just drive a Grand Prix, he actually owns a Pontiac agency.
Jack got up from the table. He was wearing his office uniform: a cotton print shirt, white loafers and tennis shorts that exposed his thickly muscled fullback's legs, the base of his athletic power. He said, "Before, I was stagnating. Losing interest. I got uptight for all the wrong reasons. My golf suffered."
Some three years ago he went to McCormack for an accounting. Nicklaus refrains from going into the details, but he and McCormack had never really been close. The split was inevitable.
The Nicklaus "group" evolved—six men, partners only by handshakes, all accountable to Jack in projects involving Golden Bear, Inc., his solely owned corporation. Except for Peterson each man has his own business—"Nobody feeds off anybody else." Put Pierman, a man with a background in heavy construction in the Midwest, is titular head of the executive committee. Others are David Sherman, a Columbus attorney knowledgeable in land purchase and contracts, Jerry Halperin, an attorney and tax man from Detroit, and Bill Sansing, a marketing-advertising coordinator who lives in Austin, Texas.
"The point of all this," said Tom Peterson, "is that what used to be a burden became a pleasure."
"And knowing what was going on freed my mind for golf," said Nicklaus.
Two weeks later the Golden Bear was in California for a tournament commitment, holed up rather nicely in a two-bedroom villa overlooking the country club's putting green. He entertained without fanfare a steady stream of friends and business associates.
The second night he took a group to the clubhouse dining room where the waitress asked him for an autograph and remarked how well he looked. "The last time you were in here you were on a diet," she said. "You had the poached salmon. I felt sorry for you."
As Jack teed off in the pro-am I he gallery thickened around him. Halfway down the first fairway he slowed to talk to the stocky, gray-haired scorekeeper for his foursome. She reported the conversation: " 'I'm sorry, ma'am, but I don't think we got a chance to meet.' 'Yes, on the tee, but you were so busy.' 'Well, I'm awfully glad you're here.' "