After his Sixth Masters Victory, Jack Nicklaus Gave One Final Interview
By: Stan Byrdy
When Jack Nicklaus won his sixth green jacket in 1986 the golf world was ecstatic. Master Jack posted a closing round 65 to come from out of the pack and win the tournament at age 46; a seemingly impossible feat at the time.
As is tradition at the Augusta National, the new champion is ushered to Butler Cabin for a national interview on CBS and where he receives the green jacket - or green coat as it is referred to by the club. Immediately afterwards the champion is presented with the coat a second time in a more formal setting on the grounds of the Augusta National in view of visiting golf dignitaries and Masters patrons.
Then the champion is whisked off to the Augusta National’s Media Center - back then the club’s old quonset hut with attached media room was in existence. This is where writers from major newspapers and magazines worldwide greet the new champion. Still to follow are individual interviews with the broadcast media which consisted of ESPN, CNN, and a limited number of local network affiliates.
In 1986, the collective interview process presented an unforeseen challenge for club officials. The popular champion that he was, Nicklaus conversed with the press writers at length after the historic victory which caused a considerable delay in his appearance at the Champions Dinner that night scheduled for 8PM. Nicklaus did not make the 9PM or 10PM dinner call either - barely making the 11PM entrance.
Shortly after 10:30PM word went out that Nicklaus would meet next with the broadcast media under the big oak tree which stands prominently at the back of the clubhouse at the Augusta National. What seemed like an eternity later the silhouette of Nicklaus on a golf cart headed our way was a moment I’ll never forget. Exhausted and excited, I was equally determined to “beat the clock” at get this interview on the air by the 11PM deadline. Problem was, there was this little matter of media pecking order to be dealt with. Since I was the new guy in town covering my first Masters Tournament, I would interview Nicklaus last. Little did I know at the time but this would prove to be a blessing in disguise.
One by one, the broadcast interviews clicked by, each participant mindful of the 11PM news deadlines. Then at approximately 10:45PM it was my turn to converse with Nicklaus. Now the only thing standing in Jack’s way to a well deserved celebration dinner was… me. I was really sweating it out at this point and I don’t know what was pounding more, the sound of the seconds ticking towards 11PM in my head or my heart thumping in my chest at the opportunity to interview the greatest golfer on the planet. Despite the excitement of the day and the non-stop media demands, Nicklaus accorded me the same privilege he had extended every other outlet. No shortcuts, no abbreviated answers - that was the Nicklaus way.
Despite all the questions he had endured Jack still had one last interview in him and for a brief moment in time the young Jack was back; so too the passion that carried him to six Masters victories. You could see it in his eyes, feel it in his voice; the celebration going on inside the clubhouse without him could wait just a bit longer. I sensed that Nicklaus realized this just might be the last interview on the night of the last Masters Tournament, the last major he might ever win. In a rare moment, Nicklaus opened up, told me what the day really meant to him and how he battled a flood of emotions to win that afternoon. Nicklaus recounted that he was emotional because his mom and sister were present at the Masters for the first time in over twenty five years and that his son, Jackie, was his caddy.
Mostly though, Nicklaus was proud of his winning effort against the odds. “I’ve been written off before, I guess I don’t mind being written off again. Everybody writes me off every year I don’t win something. But I wasn’t about to quit playing golf, at age 46, and playing the way I’d played earlier this year. I knew I could play better golf than that, and I was determined and very proud of my effort. I’m a proud human being like anybody else. You know, I don’t like to be just written off because all of a sudden (because) you don’t make a couple of putts. And so I just went back to work a little bit, and said I’m not going to quit playing golf this way. And I feel very, very fortunate and happy right now!”
When the interview concluded, Nicklaus called me by name - at the end of the biggest day of his career, Nicklaus remembered my name! As I hurried to WJBF-TV in downtown Augusta I couldn’t help think that was exactly why he was the ultimate Masters champion; he never overlooked the details, on or off the course.
To see the entire interview with Jack Nicklaus following his sixth Masters victory go to www.stanbyrdy.com and click on the blog section.
About Stan Byrdy: Author/Documentary Producer/Sportscaster/Speaker/Tour Host
Stan Byrdy served as Sports Director at WJBF-TV in Augusta from 1985-1994 and at NBC Augusta from 2006-2009. During that time Stan won 12 concurrent “Best of Augusta” Magazine awards and numerous Georgia and South Carolina AP and UPI honors. He covered the Masters Golf Tournament from Jack Nicklaus’ historic win in 1986 through 2009 and is the author of two historical golf books on Augusta. Stan also served as coordinating executive producer for the Emmy-nominated documentary, “Augusta’s Master Plan; From Sherman’s March to Arnie’s Army”, which represents the first full-length documentary in Georgia Public Broadcasting’s 50-plus year history. Stan’s work has been featured on PBS, ESPN, CNN, The Weather Channel and ABC News affiliates nationwide and he is a sought after interview for nationally syndicated radio programs. Learn more about Stan Byrdy or to purchase one of his books about Augusta visit www.stanbyrdy.com.
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