Jack Nicklaus came to Harbor Shores and showed why he'll always be the Golden Bear
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Not many courses can create a historic moment the day they open.
But thanks to Jack Nicklaus, that very thing happened at Harbor Shores -- the course he designed -- the day it opened its doors in 2010.
Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller were all on hand for an exhibition that day.
Harbor Shores has some wild greens and the one at the par-5 10th hole might be the most severe.
Miller found himself on the bottom of shelf of the green. He had to be about a hundred feet from the hole.
Nicklaus visited Harbor Shores during the second round of the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship on Friday, so we'll let the Golden Bear take it from there.
"We were playing a scramble and Johnny knocked it on the green in two," he said. "Arnold putted first, hit the ball, made it about three quarters of the way up the hill and didn't hit it hard enough, came rolling right by him and watched it roll by him off the green. And Johnny said, 'well,' you know, he said, 'no way to make this,' he says, 'you got to wedge it.' Well I'm sitting there and I said, 'oh, my gosh, here we are, opening a brand new golf course, everybody seeing this on television is going to come here and want to wedge the ball on this green. I could just see the divots on here."
Here's Nicklaus watching video of that putt on Friday:
"I mean I didn't line it up, I didn't do anything I just whacked it and it went in the hole," Nicklaus laughed. "Maybe I should have done that a lot more through the years. But anyway, that was kind of fun, we all had a lot of -- I think it's gotten a couple of what do you call it, 'views.'"
It sure did.
And another Nicklaus moment that got a lot of views happened last month at the Masters. But this Nicklaus moment belonged to Jack's 15-year-old grandson, GT.
GT was caddying for his grandpa in the Par 3 Contest. On the ninth and final hole, Jack let GT hit a shot.
It turned into the shot of a lifetime. With his world famous grandfather looking on, along with playing partners Gary Player and Tom Watson, thousands at the course and millions at home on live TV, GT made his first-ever ace.
Jack couldn't hold back the tears of joy when the ball went in. And now, more than a month and a half later, he still beams with pride reflecting on it.
"We actually went to Augusta this last weekend, it was the last day the course was open, so I took up my oldest boy Jack and his boy Jack and took up Gary and GT, his son," Nicklaus said. "And we went up and played with another member and some friends and we just had a sort of a day. And we played the golf course, the big golf course and we got around to wanting to go play the par 3. And some weather came in and we didn't get a chance to play it. And I looked over at GT. I said, 'GT, I'm sorry, we're sorry,' and he said, 'I had a hole-in-one the last time I was there, so I'm just fine.'"
The 18-time major winner put GT's ace in perspective and explained why it meant so much to him.
"Things that I've done, I'm obviously very proud of what I've done and what I've played and won, but, you know, that doesn't mean anything as it relates to when something happens with your kids or your grandkids," he explained. "And I suppose particularly your grandkids because you're still doing a lot of stuff while you're kids are doing things. I'm not doing a whole lot now so when I watch my grandkids do things, I get excited about it."
Nicklaus said that on Easter Sunday -- the Sunday before the Masters -- he played nine holes with GT and had asked him then if he wanted to hit a shot in the Par 3 Contest. GT said, yes.
He also reminded his grandpa that none of his cousins had ever even hit the green with their shots at past Par 3 Contests.
At dinner the next night, Nicklaus said to GT, "if you want to hit a ball, you'll probably make a hole-in-one. And he said, 'that would be great.' So he went to his dad on Tuesday night and he says, 'dad, wouldn't it be neat if I made my first hole-in-one out at Augusta tomorrow?' And Gary says, 'well, don't get your hopes up,' but he says, 'yeah, that would be great.'"
Wednesday finally came. GT hit just three golf balls on the range in his caddie jumpsuit, "too small for him. He's a big kid," Jack said.
"When we finally got around to 9, he took a practice swing and he took up half the practice tee, which wasn't a very good swing," Nicklaus said. "But he hit the shot and it was a beautiful golf swing he made and it hit there, and of course Gary Player had a mic on and Gary says, 'that's really right, right in the right place,' he says, 'that's got a chance, that's heading for the hole,' you know, he's commentating on it. And he said, 'well you wait' -- and of course Gary is named after Gary Player, so GT is actually still, still a name after Gary too. He's been a great friend and as great a friend as I've had in golf forever. So to have him there, be there and Tom Watson -- and Gary and Tom and I all played well in the tournament, it was a great day, it was great fun."
By the way -- in that Augusta National round last weekend, GT was the only player in the group to play the back tees. Nicklaus said his grandson bogeyed each of the last four holes for a 4-over 76.
"He's going to be a nice player once he learns how to play golf," Nicklaus said. "Right now he can play golf but once he learns what I'm talking about, playing golf as in tournament golf, he'll be a good player."