Jack Nicklaus got his first pro check 53 years ago today
Jack Nicklaus via Instagram
One of the people I really enjoy following on social media is Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear – and his staff, of course – do a fine job of noting many of the prominent days throughout his storied career.
Today is one of those days, but not for the reason you might think. No, Jack didn't win a major on January 8, 1962 – instead, he received his first check as a professional golfer on that day. And it was a whopper – $33.33 – beause the Bear tied for last place.
That's the real check pictured above. Nicklaus shared the photo on Instagram, and it's awesome that he still has it.
Back in the early 1960s, the Los Angeles Open was the PGA Tour's season opener, and the 21-year-old Nicklaus made his first pro start at Rancho Park Golf Course, a prominent public course in west Los Angeles that hosted the tournament 18 times over the years.
He made the cut in his first start, but shot 289 and finished up in a tie for 50th and last place with Billy Maxwell and Don Massengale. His check was for $33.33 – and, as he noted on Instagram, he always wondered what happened to the extra penny.
Phil Rodgers, 23 years old at the time, won the tournament – according to the Golf Historical Society, Rodgers finished nine shots ahead of the field and 21 shots ahead of Nicklaus.
Nicklaus played again at Rancho Park in the 1963 Los Angeles Open. He improved seven shots, posting a final score of 282, and finished 24th, eight shots behind winner Arnold Palmer. And, of course, he went on to win a few tournaments hmself.