DUBLIN, Ohio – As he prepares to host the 46th annual Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club, about a 15-mile drive northwest of The Ohio State University, Jack Nicklaus hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
Asked about his roots growing up in Central Ohio and playing at Ohio State during his pre-tournament press conference at Muirfield Village on Tuesday, Nicklaus gave credit to the university he attended – as well as the state he grew up in – with helping prepare him for his illustrious career in the sport of golf.
“I think I was blessed to be able to be a Buckeye,” said Nicklaus, who attended Ohio State from 1957-61 and went on to win 18 major championships, still the most in professional golf history. “I think I was very lucky to grow up in Columbus, Ohio, grew up at a great golf course like Scioto (Country Club), had the opportunity to play at a great university like The Ohio State University and play the Scarlet course, which is a wonderful golf course.”
Growing up in Ohio, Nicklaus didn’t have the opportunity to play golf year-round – which is why a majority of professional golfers hail from the southern portion of the United States. But Nicklaus, who also earned All-Ohio honorable mention honors on the basketball court at Upper Arlington High School, felt that the variety of sports he played growing up actually helped foster his love for golf.
“I loved growing up playing here, because I was not a 12-month-a-year golfer. I thought you burn yourself out by doing that,” Nicklaus said. “I think kids should play more sports. And you grow up here, you have a tendency to play more sports.”
With his wit as sharp as ever during Tuesday’s press conference, Nicklaus also poked fun at Ohio State’s biggest rival. When a reporter asked Nicklaus about the upcoming Rocket Mortgage Classic, a new PGA Tour event that will be played in Detroit starting this year, Nicklaus naturally made a joke about the state up north.
“(You’re asking) me, from Ohio State, the importance of what goes on in Michigan?” Nicklaus quipped in response to the question, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I didn’t know anything important went on in Michigan.”
Jack Nicklaus has a lot of golf memories in Michigan.— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) May 28, 2019
He starts by pointing out hes an Ohio State man, and actually likes seeing Michigan win until The Game. pic.twitter.com/fo8AxDnYfR
The Buckeye great said he was just kidding, though, and said he actually roots for the Michigan football team to win most of its regular season games – except for the last one, of course.
“It may sound funny to you being an Ohio State guy, but I’m really a big Michigan fan,” Nicklaus said. “I’m a Michigan fan about 11 weeks a year. I want them to come in undefeated.”
Nicklaus’ tournament will feature several participants with Ohio State ties this year, starting on Wednesday when former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer is set to participate in the Memorial Tournament’s pro-am alongside professional golfer Keegan Bradley. The field of golfers competing in the actual tournament, which begins Thursday, will also include two former Buckeyes: Will Grimmer, who just finished his Ohio State career at the NCAA Championships this weekend and received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the Memorial, and veteran PGA Tour player Ryan Armour.
Stay tuned with Eleven Warriors for additional coverage this week on Ohio State's ties to the Memorial Tournament.