Just Call Me Jack: Mr. Nicklaus Makes Things Special For GAM
Jack Nicklaus wasn’t the master of ceremonies, but he proved once again he is the master of working ceremonies.
He made everybody smile. He posed for pictures. He was gracious, humble, witty and kind. And he signed autographs even for the collectors who hovered.
I called him Mr. Nicklaus. He remembered the first time he met me, almost 30 years ago, and said, “call me Jack.”
Jack was at Oakland Hills Country Club – and let’s not pretend he wasn’t paid well to be there – to make a special event out of the GAM Foundation Fundraiser that celebrated both the 100th anniversary of the GAM and its service to golf and kicked off the week of the 108th Michigan Amateur Championship, which was hosted by Oakland Hills on its North Course.
Jack made it special on all fronts.
People, 120 of them, paid to play the South Course, and Oakland Hills donated the green fees portion to Youth on Course. People went to the on-line auction and bid, and they went big on a lunch and round of golf with Jack, which he donated to the cause.
Jack was at a dinner, too, where people paid to have a wonderful meal and hear him chat with WJR radio personality Frank Beckmann.
Jack also met with the media, as he always does, and went overtime, talked his favorite subjects, and even did one-on-one interviews.
Then he wanted to go out on the North Course and talk to golfers. He had said a few days before that he didn’t want to spend the entire day talking to media and guys in ties. He wanted to see golfers.
The lucky golfers who happened to be on the putting green on the final practice day looked up, beamed and were overjoyed to chat with him.
Ben Smith of Novi, the Georgia Tech golfer who ended up winning the championship five days later, said it meeting Jack Nicklaus put him in a great mood to start the week.
“It was awesome to meet an amazing golfer and person,” he said.
Many others had the same reaction.
What turned out to be a tremendous championship week, a memorable week, and helped a lot of young golfers play rounds of golf for $5 or less this summer through Youth on Course and the GAM Foundation’s efforts, was kicked off by Jack.
He joked with the Wolverines, who were there by the many and seemingly felt it necessary to point out to him that he was a Buckeye. He waved off any praise and asked questions about Youth on Course. He talked about how his wife Barbara had supported his golf career, so he now has turned the tables and supports her many charitable causes.
I’m not sure how he does it. Many of his days are like the days at Oakland Hills. He, like Arnold Palmer, is a grand ambassador of golf. He was introduced as the greatest golfer ever, but even that doesn’t fit the bill. Arnie is King, and that will never change. It seems like he needs another title beyond Golden Bear.
He doesn’t think so.
“Just call me Jack.”