Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Rolex
Jack Nicklaus

Even if your only knowledge drop about the golf game centres around using a metal stick to punt a white pimply ball around a grassy real estate, there's a good chance that you may have heard of Jack Nicklaus, also known as the Golden Bear. Arguably more formidable than Tiger Woods' game (depending on the birth year of the person you're discoursing with), the 83-year-old set records in the sport that many of his so-called successors have failed to get close to. If you're keeping score: 18 Major Championships won between 1962 and 1986 are 18 reasons why Nicklaus still has that GOAT status intact even in 2023 (sorry, Woods). And let’s not forget that he came close to adding to that tally with those 19 runner-up finishes at a Major coupled with over 120 tournament finishes. But who’s counting? That said, Nicklaus is also a force to be reckoned with in the watch world. Having already sworn allegiance to Rolex since the ’60s, Nicklaus wore the same gold Rollie at nearly every Major victory, albeit for the first one. In 2019, that very same watch hit the auction block in New York, selling for a cool mill – a sum that was funnelled to benefit children at his Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Prior to the the Rolex-sponsored 87th Masters in April (also the 60th year since Nicklaus won the first of his record six Masters victories), the GOAT gives us the deets of the good memories and what makes him the best to ever do it. 

MANIFESTO: Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Rolex, and being part of the Rolex Family?

JACK NICKLAUS: I officially became a Rolex Testimonee in 1967 and I have proudly represented and worn Rolex watches for over 50 years now. Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and I were at a cocktail party in Tokyo when Rolex kindly gave us each our first watch. Gary suggested that I choose the 18K gold Rolex 1803 Day-Date which I did. I have been fortunate enough to have several Rolex watches in my collection. I was presented with one when I won The Tradition in 1995 and 1996, which was very special. Over the years, I have had a wonderful relationship with Rolex. They have been very kind to me and have supported me with wherever I have gone in my career or when I have asked for support. Rolex is an incredible company to be involved with. It is not only such a prestigious brand but its support for the game of golf is unique. It is amazing that Rolex has supported all of the Major Championships and so many incredible players. Its support spans not only golf but other sports like tennis too. Rolex’s support has been vital to both of these sports and all the respective Rolex Testimonees.

M: You have won the Masters Tournament on a record six occasions, with the first 60 years ago back in 1963. Can you describe how special the feeling was of putting on the iconic Green Jacket for the very first time?

JN: When I first won the Masters, I was only 23 years old. Back then, the cherished prize was the Green Jacket. The motivation for wanting to win was certainly not money. When I won, it was an unusual situation because the weather conditions were questionable with rain pouring down. Mike Souchak left the tournament after two rounds and everyone was almost certain that the rounds would have to be abandoned on the Saturday. When I arrived at the 18th green, the weather had improved slightly. My caddie and I looked at each other, and I questioned how many golfers were under par. His reply was: “Only you”. All of a sudden, I was leading the golf tournament and I managed to cling onto my lead through the last day. It had always been a dream of mine to win the Masters Tournament. Bobby Jones, who founded and designed the Augusta National Golf Club, and co-founded the Masters Tournament, was someone I admired. The thought that went into creating such a tournament was unbelievable. The Green Jacket is a symbol of the tradition and prestige and for that reason, I love it. Every year that I attend, I am always blown away by the magnificence of it. It has and will never change.

M: How special was it winning that sixth Masters in 1986?

JN: It was a special moment winning my sixth Masters as everyone including myself thought that my time winning Major Championships was over. I did not prepare the way that I typically did and had this big putter that must have been around eight inches long. I used that particular putter head during the Masters Tournament that year and controlled it better as the rounds went on. My playing quality also increased as the rounds went on.

M: Can you pick out one special moment above all others from your six victories?

JN: Walking off the 18th green at the 1986 Masters and sharing it with my oldest son who caddied for me. That was a pretty special moment sharing a victory with my son, and having achieved that with him alongside me.

M: Fellow Rolex Testimonee Scheffler had an exceptional 2022 season, including winning the Masters. What advice would you give to him as defending champion?

JN: I would advise him to go to the event with the aim of achieving the same result! It is important to continue the preparation that he has been doing and to stick to the things that allowed him to win in 2022. The conditions of the golf courses and the weather may of course not be the same, making it hard to repeat the exact same things, but the key is to trust and be confident in your abilities. At Augusta, the greens are sometimes very quick and sometimes much slower – you just don’t know. That’s what makes the Masters such a great tournament. It’s very difficult to recreate certain situations. It’s a different experience each year but it is at a venue that the world knows so well. This all makes it incredibly special when a golfer achieves success there.

M: It was quite a day at the Masters in 2018 in the Par-3 Contest when you let your grandson Gary, who was your caddie, when on the final hole of the Par-3 course at Augusta National, you let Gary take a swing off the tee and he sank the tee shot for a famous hole-in-one, and in front of Gary Player and Tom Watson too – how special was that?

JN: At dinner on the Sunday before the tournament, I asked my grandson if the opportunity arose whether he would like to hit a ball on the final hole of the Par-3 course. Obviously, he was extremely excited and said: “Yes of course!” He higlighted that no one else in the family had achieved a shot that had landed on the green. He continued to say that I thought that he would make a hole-in-one, and I replied with: “That’s great but don’t get your hopes up!” The next day, we went out and shot a couple of balls at the practice range. Next moment, he is using my wedge and hits the shot. At that moment, Gary Player was mic’d up and started saying that it is going to be close and that it was veering towards the hole. Next thing we know, it goes in! Personally, that moment is my favourite moment from the Masters. I have won six Masters but to witness my grandson achieve something special is far more important and impressive than celebrating any win.

M: You won a record 18 Majors in your career. Is there one particular win that stands out for you?

JN: All of my wins at the different Majors are special in their own way. However, my win at the Masters in 1986 could be the highlight of my career. I was 46 years old and back in those days, that was considered old to be playing. I did not expect to win and shot a 65. What made it special was that my mother and sister were able to witness it. It was the first time they attended the Masters since 1959.

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