Jack Nicklaus' first pro check
Jack Nicklaus via Instagram
Jack Nicklaus began his historic career with a tiny check for tying for last place in his first pro start.
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 – because 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 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 himself.
 
Jack Nicklaus got his first pro check 57 years ago today
Changes to the rules of golf
USA Today Sports Images
In an effort to make the game faster and easier to play, the R&A and USGA, with help from the PGA of America, put into effect the new modernized rules of golf beginning Jan. 1, 2019. Here are five that we are excited to start using.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association have officially put into place the moderized rules of golf aimed at speeding up the game and simplifying some of the game's more complicated rules. There are five changes that we love and can't wait to start using. Here they are:

5. 'Maximum Score' Form of Stroke Play

Explanation: A player's score for each hole is capped at a maximum set by the Committee, which may be fixed (such as 6, 8, 10, etc.), related to par (such as two times par or triple bogey), or related to the player’s handicap (such as net double bogey).

A player who does not complete a hole (often referred to informally as "picking up") is not to be disqualified, but simply gets the maximum score for the hole.

Why we love it: This is sooo much better than putting an "X" on the scorecard, or having that one playing partner who picks up and always says, "Put me down for a..." Whatever. Now you can put them -- or yourself -- down for a definitive number. This rule would also be a relief for those of us who are adamant about playing every stroke through the hole, even if it adds up to a number in the high teens.

RELATED: Golf unveils a modern set of rules to make game faster, easier to play

4. Use of Distance-Measuring Devices

Explanation: New Rule 4.3 allows players to use DMDs to measure distance.

But a Committee may adopt a Local Rule prohibiting such use of DMDs.

Why we love it: Many of us may do this already. But seeing as technology in equipment has come such a long way, why should it only be limited to your golf ball and clubs? Instead of walking off yardages, it's easier and -- usually accurate within a 1/2-yard -- to just go ahead and shoot the distance with a laser. It also eliminates human error (provided you or your caddie are in fact shooting the correct target). This may rub some players the wrong way, as they'll no longer have a caddie to blame for an incorrect yardage.

3. Unplayable Ball in a Bunker (two-stroke penalty)

Explanation: The player has an extra option allowing relief outside the bunker using the back-on-a-line procedure, but for a total of two penalty strokes (New Rule 19.3b).

Why we love it: Let's face it -- there's nothing worse than arriving at a bunker only to find your ball embedded in the lip. This new rule -- even while enforcing a two-stroke penalty should you decide to take relief outside the bunker -- will prove to be extremely kind to golfers. Think about it: Yes, it's a two-stroke penalty, but chances are you were going to use at least two strokes to get out of that bunker anyway, right? Why not take the penalty and get a clean lie from whatever yardage you're most comfortable with?

2. Encouraging Prompt Pace of Play

Explanation: New Rule 5.6 encourages prompt pace of play by saying that:

Players should recognize that their pace of play affects others and they should play promptly throughout the round (such as by preparing in advance for each stroke and moving promptly between strokes and in going to the next tee).

A player should make a stroke in no more than 40 seconds (and usually in less time) after the player is able to play without interference or distraction.

Committees should adopt a Pace of Play Policy (rather than only say they may do so).

In addition, new Rule 6.4 expressly allows playing out of turn in match play by agreement, and for stroke play would affirmatively allow and encourage players to play out of turn in a safe and responsible way to save time or for convenience (also known as "ready golf").

Why we love it: Playing "ready golf" has been an "unwritten rule" for years. Getting it on the books just makes a whole lot of sense.

1. New Procedure for Dropping a Ball

Explanation: Players continue to drop a ball when taking relief, but the dropping procedure is changed in several ways as detailed in Rule 14.3.

When taking relief (from an abnormal course condition or penalty area, for example), golfers will now drop from knee height. This will ensure consistency and simplicity in the dropping process while also preserving the randomness of the drop. (The initial recommendation was to be able to drop the ball from any height above the ground). 

Why we love it: This is as close as you're going to get to being able to place your golf ball without actually placing it. Shoot -- it may even eliminate the need to place a ball after two bad drops.  

 

The new rules of golf are in place. Here are 5 rules we are excited to start using.