Walker Cup Memories; Jack Nicklaus


b_NicklausWCMemories --- Photo shows Jack Nickaus during the 1961 U.S. Amateur 
 Jack Nicklaus was a perfect 4-0-0 in his two Walker Cup appearances. (USGA Museum) 

Before going on to win a record 18 professional major championships, Jack Nicklaus enjoyed a stellar amateur career that saw him claim the 1959 and 1961 U.S. Amateur titles, shoot a 72-hole record 269 at the 1960 World Amateur Team Championship at Merion Golf Club and represented the USA on a pair of winning Walker Cup Teams (1959 and 1961). The 1961 squad is still considered one of the greatest ever assembled. The team, which also featured future PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman and Charlie Coe, posted an 11-1 win over Great Britain and Ireland at Seattle (Wash.) Golf Club. Nicklaus was a perfect 4-0-0 in his Walker Cup career.

What did it mean for you to play in the Walker Cup?

Playing in the Walker Cup was a pretty big deal in my golfing life. It was my first trip overseas. It was my first experience against seasoned golfers. It was my first experience on a links golf course. The whole thing was an experience that I would say was fairly valuable to me being a young man who was still trying to figure out a lot of things about the game.

What did you learn that week at Muirfield in 1959?

It’s not all on your shoulders. You learn to play with a teammate. You play for your country. You experience a lot of different things that will prove to be beneficial down the road. It’s something that I would highly recommend, if you’re a young golfer and you have the chance to play in the Walker Cup. If golf is something that you intend to pursue, then the Walker Cup is a pretty good place to start to really learn a lot about yourself and about the game. I found out that I still had a lot of growing to do as a player.

What else do you remember about the experience?

Going to the United Kingdom meant I wasn’t going to be able to play for the Ohio State golf team that spring, and I was apprehensive about telling my coach, Bob Kepler. But Kep couldn’t have been nicer or more supportive. I said, “Kep, I made the Walker Cup Team. That may put a crimp in our spring plans of playing golf.” And he said, “Don’t be silly, you’re going to play in the British Amateur, and the Walker Cup matches and you’re going to be a golfer. Don't worry about the golf team, we’ll be fine. This is fantastic, this is great for you.” That’s the golf coach I had, that's the kind of golf team we had at Ohio State.

- Dave Shedloski