Cape Charles, VA – “Not bad for a guy my age.”
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus amused the crowd gathered at the Grand Opening of his Signature Golf Course at Bay Creek Resort & Club with this one-liner after a majestic tee shot during the ceremonial first round Friday, May 19th. The humble, understated demeanor of the man voted Golfer of the Century was applauded by the gallery as they marveled at the shot which would have been a good shot at any age.
Nicklaus was in Cape Charles for the day to christen Virginia’s first Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, a beautifully crafted 7417-yard design filled with challenging waste bunkers and small greens. A stiff wind off the Chesapeake Bay had Nicklaus admitting at the pre-round press conference that it “might be a bit more course than I want to play today.” Nicklaus personally designed each hole of this magnificent course to complement the natural beauty inherent to the Bay Creek landscape. He skillfully combined the breathtaking views of the Chesapeake Bay with strategically placed tees and bunkers to design a course as striking to look at, as it is fun and challenging to play.
Nicklaus met with attending media Friday morning, and then entertained the invitation-only crowd of more than 1,000 in a 45-minute golf clinic. Switching back and forth between educating those in attendance with his philosophy on how to approach the game and an impressive array of practice shots, he consistently drew a variety of gasps and nods of admiration at a swing that is still formidable despite his age and reduced amount of play.
“I don’t play much anymore,” he told those in attendance. “I think I’ve played nine times in the last 10 months.”
Instead he spends an incredible amount of time and energy running Nicklaus Design, which has designed close to 300 courses around the world–245 involved the hand of Nicklaus himself–to further ensure the Golden Bear’s lasting legacy in the game of golf. His design at Bay Creek is among the finest courses on the east coast. “It’s a work of art, and we’re fortunate to have Jack here to do what he’s done,” said Dick Foster, owner of the golf course and developer of Bay Creek Resort and Club.
Nicklaus played a full 18-hole exhibition round, spending time on each hole to explain to the gallery how he approached each design, and different strategies for playing the hole. He would sometimes hit multiple shots from the same ball location to show members and guests the various options that can be taken on playing a hole. He mixed an ample amount of golf strategy with an impressive memory for how each hole was developed from the original landscape, keeping the crowd entertained during the entire round. His focus was on the course itself, not his individual round. “I haven’t shot a round for a score since the British Open,” he said, alluding to his final competitive round last July at St. Andrews. He was generous with conceding shots to his playing partner, Bay Creek Head Golf Professional Joe Burbee, a long-time Nicklaus fan. “That’s how you shoot the course record,” he added with a smile.
Standing over a very long par putt on the 18th green, Nicklaus paused and addressed the crowd.
“In the 200 plus courses that I’ve opened,” he said matter-of-factly, “I’ve never bogeyed the 18th hole.” This said, he stood over the putt and lined up his shot, taking a little longer than he had on most of his shots of the day. With a smooth backswing, he stroked the putt, blasting it past the hole to the surprise of everyone in the gallery. The ball rolled across the green and straight to the feet of a young boy who had followed Nicklaus that day with his family. A parting gift from the Golden Bear. The crowd once again applauded another great shot by the game’s greatest golfer and celebrated once again one of the world’s great golf course designers.