Tony spoke to former Reuters golf correspondent Tony Jimenez to pay tribute to the great Jack Nicklaus on the Golden Bear’s 80th birthday:
“What a man! What a career! What a life!
I’d like to use this moment to salute Jack. Wow, 80 is a real milestone for him and I don’t know of anybody who’s had a more fulfilled life than he has.
He’s been a fantastic ambassador for golf for decades but more than that, he’s somehow managed to balance his businesses, his family and competitive golf better than anyone I know.
I know it wasn’t always plain sailing. He had some problems with his businesses at the start, staff related I think they were, but he got through that period and never let it show to the outside world.
When it came to the point when he was not competitive on the golf course any more, he started to devote himself to those things his wife Barbara holds dear. The kids, grandkids, charities, cancer research, helping hospitals, and Jack worked tirelessly in those areas too.
He does nothing but good, he’s made incredible contributions on all fronts and deserves all the accolades he gets, as does Barbara. My wife Astrid and I consider them both to be dear friends.
Jack and I first played together at the World Cup in 1966. We were both very competitive back then and when I think about his golf, I think not only of his record tally of 18 Major wins, I also think of his remarkable Major record between 1970 and 1980 when he finished in the top 10 on 30 separate occasions in the ‘Big Four’ events.
That is a simply ridiculous stat. On top of that of course, he had 19 second-place finishes in his Major career and umpteen third-place finishes.
For me, his ability to think clearly when the pressure was on was his greatest asset. He had more practice at that than most but he never lost his head and he always used his mind brilliantly.
I can’t, of course, talk about Jack without mentioning the famous Ryder Cup concession he and I were involved in back in 1969.
He knew the Americans would retain the trophy regardless of what he did on the final hole of our singles match but he had worked it all through in his own head. He had the presence of mind to do that under such pressurised circumstances and I think the fact he conceded my two-foot putt at the last typifies the man.
He was an outstanding putter at his peak and his reputation when it comes to course design is awesome. He’s managed to carve himself a terrific reputation around the world in that sphere too.
He’s performed a great balancing act when it comes to attention shared between his businesses, his family and his golf. He gave 100 per cent to all three. Whenever he concentrated on one, he focused totally. But he couldn’t have done it without Barbara.
When he was on the road, it was down to Barbara to devote her time to the five children and 22 grandchildren they have. That’s an awful lot of people and they all rely on Jack.
More power to him, I say, and I truly pray that he stays healthy for many more years to come.”