Meridian Star

Sports

April 11, 2013

The day Jack came to town

MERIDIAN — This is being written to coincide with the beginning of the Masters at Augusta, Ga., a golf tournament like no other, which only gets better and better each year.  Of all the golf I watch, this is the most anticipated and most exciting . There is no other that comes close.

     A historical event took place in Meridian during October of 1999, when the one and only Jack Nicklaus flew in to play an exhibition match for the local folks of my hometown. 

    This was made possible because Meridian native Melia Peavey  was working on The Peavey House (now Hope Village) and because both Peavey's and Jack's pilots had gotten to know each other while flying the same G5-style planes.

    Earlier in the year, Jack had a hip replacement and was unable to play in the Masters.  After expressing interest in attending the Champions Dinner in Augusta, Peavey offered to fly to West Palm Beach. Fla., to pick up Jack and his wife Barbara and deliver them to the event. 

    The story goes that Peavey had the idea she could get Jack to come to Meridian and benefit The Peavey House –– most thought it could not be done. 

    However, out of that first encounter with Peavey, something surreal took place a few months later, as Jack walked onto the course at Northwood Country Club.

    I was working that day in October, but there was no way Jack Nicklaus was coming to town without me seeing him.  Jack’s playing partner that day was Mike Malaska, and the caddies were both from Meridian, Scott Morgan for Jack and Landry Adkins for Malaska. Adkins told me Jack’s three rules for a caddy –– show up, keep up, and shut up. 

    After being within six feet of Jack, I could not believe I was on the same ground with such a legend of a man.

     I came away from that day saying that Jack was and always will be my favorite golfer of all time.

     He was a gentleman in every way and so cordial to all, especially the youngsters who came to watch.  At every green, after he sunk the putt, he would walk over to the kids and give one of them his golf ball. 

    What a prize and keepsake for these young kids, as they can now look back and know they were in the presence of greatness.

    On the fourth hole, Jack hit his drive to the left side. His approach shot was down a hill to the green.  When Jack and all of us walked up to his ball, he studied the approach to see how he could get the ball onto the green.

     After looking at it for a bit, he explained to us, as he looked up into the huge pine tree above him, he could see an opening between two limbs. 

    Jack said he planned to hit the ball way up through that opening and onto the green. 

    I didn’t believe he could do it, but when he struck the ball, it went straight through the opening. 

    To the amazement of the  entire crowd, when we looked down to the green, Jack’s ball was close to the pin. He had demonstrated to all of us his greatness.

    In closing, Meridian will never be the same because of that most special day.

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