The Master of Golf Wins the Masters!
Jack Nicklaus – The Golden Bear – had a lifetime of winning championships in the world of golf, but the 1986 Masters tournament will always go down as one of sport’s greatest miracles.
He was forty-six-years-old at the time, and perhaps the greatest golfer in the history of the game, but he hadn’t won a major tournament in six years. There were actual newspapers who had declared Nicklaus “done, washed up, and all through.” Of course, that was before the last nine holes were played one late Sunday afternoon at Augusta. Those last nine brought those sportswriters out of their tents and off their chairs as they ran to glimpse a true miracle in the making. Every rival of the Golden Bear stumbled and fell apart that day, as Nicklaus shot a thirty on the back nine, and sixty-five for the day. In one completely miraculous afternoon, he proved that age had nothing to do with golf, and that true talent stayed with you forever. This was Jack’s record 18th professional major that gave him a record six Masters’ victories. The first came in 1963, with his first major win coming at the 1962 U.S. Open.
In order to bring you all back, this writer says: close your eyes, hear the hush of the crowd, and remember one of the greatest miracles to happen on that bright green grass of Augusta. In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, five different players held the lead as they entered the final round. After a par at fourteen, Nicklaus began his legendary charge at fifteen, and after hitting his two-hundred-and-four-yard approach to within twelve feet, The Bear buried the putt for eagle to pull within two shots of the leader.
Nicklaus then hit his tee shot on sixteen to within three feet, and after holing his birdie putt he was within one shot of Ballesteros, the leader, who was playing the 15th hole. Many people and observers believed that Ballesteros was about to go for the green in two, but ended up in the water instead. After failing, Ballesteros bogeyed the hole, giving Nicklaus a share of the lead. Other contenders began to fall out of the race after Nicklaus hit his approach on 17 to eighteen feet. After a long deliberation, Nicklaus holed his putt on 17 and gained sole possession of the lead for the very first time in the tournament. Nicklaus two putted for par on 18 to post -9 and a one shot lead – a lead that was never overtaken. Nicklaus had stormed back shooting thirty on the back 9 to win his 6th Masters title and became the oldest Masters champion.
This is the man who ended up with seventy-three victories. After winning two U.S. Amateurs in 1959 and 1961, and challenging for the 1960 U.S. Open, Nicklaus turned professional toward the end of 1961. The 1962 U.S. Open was his first major championship and his first professional win; a win that was over Arnold Palmer which began their historic rivalry.
After accumulating win after win throughout his career, and ending it on the highest note possible with his stunning 1986 Masters victory, Nicklaus joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1990, and by 1996 he had won ten of the tour’s tournaments – including eight major championships.
In fact, it never mattered what age The Golden Bear was, he always seemed to rack up the wins. He continued to play at least some of the four regular Tour majors until 2005, when he made his final appearances at The Open Championship and the Masters Tournament – going back to the place that literally gave him and his fans his greatest golf miracle ever.
The life of Jack Nicklaus was not only on the green. He has done everything from charity work to being an author. Nicklaus also runs his own tournament on the PGA Tour called, the Memorial Tournament. Not only that, but his golf course design company has become one of the largest in the world.
Yes, his career and the years after have been beyond memorable. But in the end, his miraculous Masters win at the age of forty-six will go down in history as the ‘best of the best.’ And all of those sportswriters who swore that The Bear’s career was over, and that he should simply hang up his golf clubs and call it a day, oddly enough, disappeared. The words that followed this amazing feat were ones of true and utter amazement:
Some things cannot possibly happen because they are both too improbable and too imperfect. The U.S. Hockey team cannot beat the Russians in the 1980 Olympics. Jack Nicklaus cannot shoot 65 to win The Masters at age 46. …Nothing else comes immediately to mind.” Tom Boswell, Sports Columnist.
And the man who said that Nicklaus was washed up and done, Tom McCollister, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was apparently the catalyst that made Nicklaus win the whole thing. In fact, he said:
I kept thinking all week, ‘Through, washed up, huh?’ I sizzled for a while, but then I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to quit now, playing the way I’m playing. I’ve played too well, too long, to let a shorter period of bad golf be my last.
It was at the age of fifty-eight that Nicklaus made another run at the 1998 Masters, despite playing with an extremely painful left hip. In the end, over the course of his twenty-five-year career, he did win those eighteen major championships and finished second eighteen times. His seventy-three top-ten finishes is still a record – a record that no other golfer can ever even hope to surpass. Sorry, Tiger!
Until Next Time, Everybody.
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