The Istrian 18 holes for the king of golf
A man who is considered by many people to be the most accomplished golfer of all times, visited Croatia to sign a deal to personally design the 200 million Euros course in Barbariga in Istria. Nicklaus, also known as the Golden Bear, met the Prime Minister and made a sightseeing tour on Brijuni before going back to Florida to his wife Barbara, with whom he has been living in a happy marriage for 46 years.
What, for instance, Pele means for football is what Jack Nicklaus means to golf. He is simply the legend for all times. When one of the greatest golfers in history visits Croatia, it is certainly not a minor point. Even more significant, is that this 66-year-old American, who in the course of his almost half-century-long career accomplished one hundred and five professional victories worldwide and won a record 18 major titles (an achievement that has not been overdone yet), is designing an 18-hole championship golf course near Barbariga in Istria. The AB Maris company, from Vodnjan , will develop the Porto Mariccio Golf and Yacht Resort. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course will be the centerpiece of this luxury tourist destination, designed as , the largest in Croatia. In Columbus, Ohio, where the famous American was born, there is a monument in his honor. Nicklaus is the owner of the Nicklaus Design, the world’s most renowned golf course design company. Among Nicklaus Design’s 300 golf courses worldwide, there are 246 that have involved Jack and 47 have been ranked among among various U.S. and international Top-100 lists.
Nicklaus arrived by private plane in Zagreb on Saturday morning, where he met the Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and held a short press conference. Immediately following the press conference, Nicklaus went to Barbariga to get a firsthand look at the wooded property near the sea that he will transform into a top-level golf course. He also went to the Brijuni Islands, and with all business arrangements and execution of the contract together with the general manager of the company AB Maris, Roberto Bradi_, he found the time for sightseeing. Shortly before departure from the Pula airport on Sunday afternoon, he waved at us and said that soon he would come again, because he wanted to personally oversee the progress of the work in Barbariga.
This is your first time in Croatia. What are your impressions?
– Thanks to my hosts I feel at home. I have also met the Croatian Prime Minister, who plays golf himself, and the members of his government. I like what I have seen in Croatia, although only the first day of my stay was sunny, and it rained on my second and last day here. This reminded me a little bit of my American home.
How did you get your nickname the Golden Bear?
– An Australian sport writer gave me this nickname at the beginning of the 60’s. I was large and blond so the association is clear. Furthermore, the pupils of the school that I attended as boy were called Golden Bears, so it turns out that this nickname has been following me since childhood.
Do you already have a vision how the future golf course will look like?
– Of course I do. It is sufficient to look around; the view over the sea is beautiful. One should only use the advantages that this property has and accentuate the beauty of the sea.
They say that in golf it is the handicap that is important. What is your handicap?
– I myself am my biggest handicap. Just joking. Only one thing matters: if you do not play golf, give yourself the opportunity and learn it. It is only the will that matters.
What kind of family do you come from: are you the first Nicklaus who has taken up the golf clubs?
– I think that my family came from Europe to America three or four generations ago. My deceased father Charlie Nicklaus used to play golf. He introduced me to this game and generally to the sports, and my children and grandchildren have continued this tradition.
Where did you meet your wife Barbara?
– We met at Ohio State University the first week I arrived.
What is the secret of the survival of your 46-year long marriage?
– We both cherish the same life values and we have the same goals in life. My wife has understanding for my job and she supports me, and I support her charity activities. We have never had problems. We have five children, sons Jack, Steve, Gary and Michael, and our daughter Nancy. All my sons play golf, and three of them are professionals. Nancy does not play golf, although she has a very good shot. I also have nineteen grandchildren.
In basketball it is well-known the rivalry between Bird and Magic, in golf between you and Arnold Palmer. Thanks to your gripping duels, golf has also become interesting for the big TV channels that have begun to broadcast the golf tournaments. Was Palmer your toughest competitor?
– Many players would appear on this list, not only Arnold Palmer. Golf is an individual sport, so it turns out you are your own biggest adversary. You have to outdo and beat yourself.
You live with your wife in North Palm Beach in Florida. How do you spend your free time?
– I go fishing, sometimes I go hunting, I play with my grandchildren, I try to live a normal life, as many Americans do.
Last year you received from the USA President George Bush the most significant American citizen’s medal, the President’s Freedom Medal. How long do you know him?
– I met him on that occasion in the Oval Office, in the White House. However, I have known his father for a long time, and also his brother Jeb Bush, the Governor of Florida. I like the President. He is a strong person, he has a charisma and he acts based on what he feels in his heart, whether it is popular or not. I respect this characteristic very much. I was very honored with this gesture, with the fact that I found myself among those people who received this medal.