Jack Nicklaus calls long drive contest "exciting," keeps memento with him to this day
By John Holmes, PGA.com
For fans attending the PGA Championship, Tuesday is always a great day because it's the busiest day of preparation for the players. This year, Tuesday will be even more fun, thanks to the return of the PGA Championship Long Drive Competition.
The long drive contest was staged for several years in the 1950s and 1960s and then again in the 1970s and 1980s, and is best known for the fact that Jack Nicklaus won it both times he competed.
And if you think today's golfers are the undisputed kings of distance, check this out: The Bear won in 1963 in Dallas with a knock of 341 yards, and in 1964 in Columbus with a drive of 308 yards – in the rain! For both of those drives, Nicklaus swung a persimmon-headed driver with 11 degrees of loft and used a wound Titleist golf ball.
"I thought it was exciting. I thought it was fun to do," Nicklaus said. "You would go out, warm up, you played your last practice round. It was a great gallery favorite. The people came out and they watched it. You went out and saw big, long drives, things you probably wouldn't do in the tournament. I think it created some excitement."
For winning the 1963 competition, Nicklaus received a special money clip – which he has kept in his pocket for the last half-century as a constant reminder of a unique achievement.
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"I've had it in my pocket for 51 years, very proud of it," he said. "It's a big talking point and I think it's going to be a nice event for [the PGA of America] to bring back."
One of the nice touches of the revived competition is that the winner will receive a special money clip inspired by the one that Nicklaus so proudly carries. Additionally, through PGA REACH, the charitable arm of the PGA of America, the top three finishers will be provided charitable donations of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000 respectively, with the funds split equally between the players' designated charity and the American Lake Veterans Golf Course in Tacoma, Wash.
Designed by Nicklaus, the American Lake Veterans Golf Course – which has nine holes with another just now getting under construction – is the nation's only golf course designed specifically for the rehabilitation of wounded and disabled veterans.
"We are pleased that that money is going to be put to good use for our veterans," Nicklaus said. "I've seen [veterans] around the country, and it's really neat to see the rehabilitation that comes through golf for our wounded warriors."
The long drive contest will be staged on the 590-yard, par-5 10th hole at Valhalla. Each player who comes to the hole will be allowed to hit one shot, and it must come to rest in the fairway to count.
The contest will run all day, so fans can drop by the hole at almost any time and see players take their big swings. The distances will be marked and recorded, and the winner announced at the end of the day.
Here's a look at the 10th hole, where the contest will be conducted: