Jack Nicklaus, 37, golf's all-time money winner, who opens his 1977 tour in the Bing Crosby tournament next week, talked about his past, present and future in a question and answer interview the other day. He spoke on the phone from his home in North Palm Beach, Fla.
Q: How long do you intend to keep playing on the tour?
A: As long as I keep enjoying it. I like the tour and everything connected with it.
Q: What were your greatest disappointments in 1976; your greatest satisfactions?
A: My greatest disappointment was not winning a major tournament. I felt I should have lost more weight. I weighted 212 pounds when I first went on the tour in 1962 but found out I felt better with less poundage. I worked down to 178 pounds in the past couple of months and weigh 180 now. I think that's a good weight. It wasn't I was getting fat; it was just that I think at a lighter weight I can play better. My greatest satisfaction was winning the low average scoring title (70.17 average for 63 rounds) and money-winning title ($266,438, averaging $60.27 per stroke) for the eighth time. Also, I had a great satisfaction from being named PGA Player of the Year for the fifth time.
Q: How do you feel about foreign players joining the American tour?
A: I think it's good to see the foreign players in our tournaments. Golf is a universal game. The more I travel around the world, the more I'm impressed with the improved caliber of foreign players. If we have the best tour, we should have the best players.
Q: What about so many amateur golfers turning pro? Would they be better off in club jobs?
A: As long as amateurs are determined to make sacrifices to play on the tour, they can make it. But they must set strong goals ahead. Determination and competition are the keys. Joining the tour or becoming a club pro is, in my estimation, equally rewarding. The PGA is made up of more than 7,000 pros who do a great job. In order to be successful at anything a youngster must work.
Q: Will golf continue its phenominal growth?
A: No reason why it shouldn't. Our tour will have a record prize money of over $9 million this year and I think it will be even higher as the years go on. Deane Beman (PGA tour commissioner) is doing an excellent job. He gets along well with the sponsors. Another yardstick of the continued popularity of golf is the interest shown in the game by the news media, which has regulars covering the tour, and in the TV networks. Our 1977 revenue from TV will be well over $6.5 million. I'm certain TV will maintain its interest in the tour, as will the public.
Q: Are you really serious about continuing as a golf architect?
A: Absolutely, Long beyond my golf gams and myself as a person, golf courses I designed will be there as my contribution to the game. Designing courses year after year has given me more and more experience. It's a rewarding occupation.
Q: Your personal triumph as an architect, it has been said, is the Muirfield Village Course in Dublin, Ohio, where you launched the Memorial Tournament last year.
A: I guess that is my pet project. Judging from the initial reaction last year the project has turned out extremely well. The tournament will be held May 19-22 this year and already we've sold more tickets than the entire lot last year - and we have a few months more to work on it. Incidentally, the Memorial Tournament means, in this case, a tribute to the great people who made this game of golf and to that end I have established a Hall of Fame in Muirfield. From the standpoint of getting financial return from Muirfield, it's ridiculous. It is totally structured so that there is no way I can make a penny out of it.
Q: How do you find time for your family with all your activities?
A: I make the time. I am lucky that I have such a fine wife as Barbara (the former Barbara Bash). Our whole life is family-oriented and I'm never away from home more than 14 days. I try to engage in as much activity as possible with my four sons - Jack II, 15; Steven, 13; Gary, 8, and Michael, 3 - and my daughter, Nancy Jean, 11. Young jack seems more interested in football and baseball than in golf but that's all right. I was a quarterback in high school and my dad was a pro football player in Columbus, Ohio.
Q: Your four older children go to private school, any reason for that?
A: Yes. It's a matter of getting the best education possible for them. The public schools in my area here are not that good. Finances are always a problem - just as they were in Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up. Public schools must depend on bond issues and these are difficult to obtain in Florida where you have so many elderly people without children of school age. They couldn't care less about educating other people's children.
Q: How many tournaments do you plan on playing this year?
A: I'll average about 19 in all, my usual number. I try to rotate my appearances at some of the tournaments. That is, if I play the L.A. Open one year. I try to pass that up the next year and play something else. I'll play the Crosby, Gleason, Doral-Eastern, the Tournament Players Championship and the Heritage. All of these come before the Masters and I figure to be well-tested by the time the Masters comes along. I may even play one more event on the West Coast on the winter tour.
Q: Does the load you carry get you down?
A: When it does. I'll give up something. But I never realized how full life can be when one expands his interests. If you're looking for a happy man. I'll be somewhere in the money.