Jack Nicklaus says he has “very special memories” of Urbana Country Club.
He played high school matches at UCC every year as a member of the Upper Arlington golf team, but one of his favorite memories was an afternoon of golf he played at UCC 60 years ago today that was sandwiched between rounds at the Ohio Open in Marietta.
Urbana industrialist Warren Grimes promoted an exhibition match at UCC on July 28, 1956 that featured a 16-year-old Nicklaus, PGA star Sam Snead and local standouts Chick Evans and Bob Ross.
Grimes provided air travel for Nicklaus from Marietta and back so he could play in the UCC exhibition.
I recently asked Nicklaus, 76, about his memories of that day.
“Upon my arrival at Urbana, my excitement was stuck somewhere in my throat when I gulped at the hundreds of people gathered to see Sam,” he said. “I had a rare case of the first-tee jitters, but Sam did his best to put me at ease. He could not have been nicer or more gracious … so much so that his use of ‘Junior’ all day didn’t bother me in the least.
“But the real impression came when I watched Sam play. While shooting a 68 to my 71, Sam possessed this big, beautiful, free-flowing swing. His incredible drives and iron shots seemed to be executed with little to no effort. As I did many times over my young career when watching the greats of the game, I quickly tried to emulate Sam’s swing, particularly his tempo. When I made it back to Marietta, I used my new Sam Snead-like rhythm the next morning to shoot a handy 64, followed by a 72 in the afternoon for the win.
“It was a memorable week … I played with Sam Snead, won the Ohio Open and in between, began my love affair with flying.
“It was a snapshot in my life that I will never forget.”
An event planned for Saturday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nicklaus-Snead match will not occur due to the recent turnover of golf pros at UCC.
Raffle tickets are still being sold there for the autographed 16×20 framed photo of Nicklaus, with all proceeds benefitting the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison Counties. The winner will be drawn at UCC on Saturday.
Trivia Time – Urbana High School graduate Roger Wallace was drafted by the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals in 1974.
This week’s question – How many majors did Sam Snead win?