The Nicklaus Connection (2006)

This article was written by Rick McNeal of Glade Vista, Fairfield Glade, Tennessee, dated May 16, 2006.

Bobby Greenwood PGA: The Nicklaus Connection

Former PGA Tour Player Bobby Greenwood has numerous stories to tell about his golf career and in addition to sharing them with his wife Elma and his seven-year-old daughter Viola, he had the opportunity to share them with this Glade Vista reporter. One of his most noted stories is beating Jack Nicklaus in a match-play tournament in a sudden death playoff.

On the putting green in front of the clubhouse at the Augusta National golf course in April ’61, Bobby Jones leaned toward a microphone used during presentation ceremonies at the conclusion of the Masters Tournament.

“Jack Nicklaus”, Jones began, “is the most promising young golfer in the country. He will win this tournament and many other major championships before he’s through”. Jones then presented Nicklaus his award as low amateur in the Masters which was won by Gary Player after Arnold Palmer’s bladed sand shot at the 72nd hole.

In June that same year, the husky Nicklaus was low amateur in the National Open, finishing three strokes back of the winner, professional Gene Little, with a total of 284 shots.

Then in the first round of the Memphis Colonial Invitation, Nicklaus rammed home a 30-foot putt for a birdie on the 17th hole. The birdie putt put him 1-up and sighs of “That’s it” whispered through the gallery. But the one man most involved, Cookeville/Fairfield Glade’s own Bobby Greenwood, didn’t hear the whispers, or if he did, they only made him more determined.

Minutes after Nicklaus had made his birdie, Greenwood smashed a 245-yard three-wood shot five feet from the pin on the par 5 finishing hole. He made the side-hill, breaking putt for an eagle 3 and forced the match into sudden death. On the first extra hole, Greenwood hit his second shot, a  7 iron 4″ from the cut for anotherr birdie, and Nicklaus was sidelined in his bid to repeat as Colonial champion. It was the last time Nicklaus lost as an amateur, and to top that, Bobby was to enter his Sophomore year at North Texas State University.

Nicklaus was so stunned by his defeat to Bobby that he wrote about it in his books, “My 55 Ways to Lower Your Golf Score” and “My Story”.

“When I beat Nicklaus, I didn’t have any idea what I had done,” said Bobby. “He hadn’t been beaten in three years and he won the U.S. Open nine months later.”

Bobby’s relationship with the “Golden Bear” didn’t end with this encounter, as he traveled to several PGA Tournaments to watch Nicklaus compete. “He (Nicklaus) would spot me in the gallery and have a double take almost every time, and made you think ‘there’s that guy that beat me again’,” Bobby recalled.

He (Bobby) who was also a golf course architect had heard about Nicklaus’ plans to build a golf course in Crossville named “Bear Trace”. Bobby then preceded to drive up from Cookeville in order to renew his relationship with Nicklaus and offer his services.

In the above picture, Bobby, Nicklaus, and Chief Designer, Jim Fike were in the bed of a pick-up truck overlooking the building of “The Bear Trace Golf Course”. Bobby recalls, “The green we were looking at was too high and needed to be cut down so that it would be playable, but instead of challenging Nicklaus’ design intelligence by suggesting that it was ‘too high’,” Bobby asked, “Is there rock under that green,” because at that time Bobby he didn’t work for Golden Bear Design Company. At the suggestion of Bobby, the green was lowered and the end result Nicklaus hired Bobby to design golf courses over seas.

As mentioned in an earlier article, Bobby and Elma was able to meet each other face to face as he was in Japan designing a 22-million-dollar golf course for Nicklaus. Elma and Bobby got to know each other by writing through a Christian Singles International Filipino connection. While working in Japan, Bobby had to leave the country occasionally in order to keep his work visa and he would travel, as you guessed it, to the Philippines to meet Elma.

“I got to know her and her family while I was in the Philippines for three months,” Bobby recalled. “I came back home and realized I was in the same miserable, lonely existence once again. So, I just called her and asked ‘Will you marry me?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ and we immediately started making plans for her to come to America, and we married in 1998.”

“It took nine months to get her here, and she had three months to decide if she was going to marry me or not,” Bobby said. “It only took her one month instead.”

“This was the best thing that could have happened to me as a result of my relationship with Jack Nicklaus,” says Bobby.

“I am a happy man today… thanks again Jack.”

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