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Golf
Jack Nicklaus (with trophy) celebrates with the rest of the 2005 American Presidents Cup winning team
Jack Nicklaus (with trophy) celebrates with the rest of the 2005 American Presidents Cup winning team

Jack Nicklaus and The Presidents Cup

Jack Nicklaus has never struck a shot in The Presidents Cup, but as a four-time captain of the U.S. Team, he has played a significant role in the growth and success of this celebration of sportsmanship and goodwill.

Nicklaus captained his first U.S. Team in 1998 when the matches were played at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. It was not an auspicious beginning, as the International Team won 20-1/2 to 11-1/2 in the event’s first time being played outside the United States; and, thus far, the 1998 matches were the only time the International team won outright.

But perhaps as significant was a statement Nicklaus made on the eve of the competition. “In 10 years, The Presidents Cup will be bigger than the Ryder Cup,” he predicted.

It should be noted that Nicklaus is not widely known for overstatement.

Nicklaus returned as Captain in 2003 when The Presidents Cup was played at The Links at Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate in George, South Africa. His long-time friend Gary Player captained the International Team, and the event was as dramatic as any in history, either The Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.

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With the score tied 17-17 at the end of regulation play, Tiger Woods and South Africa’s Ernie Els met in sudden death. When it became too dark to continue play, the matches were declared a tie and both teams shared the Cup for a year. Again, Nicklaus summed up the spirit of The Presidents Cup:

“From day one, Gary and I said it’s not about who wins and loses,” said Nicklaus. “Goodness gracious, both Gary and I wanted to win and so did all our players. But the game is bigger than that.”

The Presidents Cup returned to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club Prince in William County, Virginia and Nicklaus returned as Captain. This time, Nicklaus led his team to a dramatic 18-1/2 to 15-1/2 win that was clinched by Chris DiMarco’s 13-foot birdie putt in Sunday’s singles play.  It was a particularly sweet moment for DiMarco, who had lost in a playoff at the Masters Tournament earlier in the year.

As he did so often in his career, Nicklaus left stage with a victory, this time in 2007 at the Royal Montreal Golf Club in Canada, when the Americans won 19-1/2 to 14-1/2.

But Nicklaus has yet another chapter to write in The Presidents Cup history, as the matches are played at Muirfield Village Golf Club, which he created and designed. It becomes the first club to host a Presidents Cup, a Ryder Cup and the LPGA’s Solheim Cup.

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"I have always considered Muirfield Village Golf Club a showcase for my love and respect for the game of golf, as well as a representation of my passion for competition and tournament golf," said Nicklaus. "In turn, I view The Presidents Cup as a wonderful showcase for the global game of golf and a platform to promote the good will and sportsmanship inherent to the sport. I have been extremely proud of my association over the years with The Presidents Cup and have been amazed and impressed with its growth as one of the game's premier team competitions. I think this is an ideal marriage, and I am pleased and proud that Muirfield Village will have the opportunity to host this great event."

PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem was enthusiastic about one of the TOUR’s showcase events coming to the club that Jack built.

"The history of this golf course is well documented, as is Jack's commitment to The Presidents Cup,” said Finchem.  “Jack created Muirfield Village to illustrate his passion for tournament golf and challenge the world's best players. The selection of Muirfield Village as the site of the next Presidents Cup in the United States is confirmation of what the golf club and Jack Nicklaus has meant to the history of our sport."

Like so much that Nicklaus is involved with, this will be a family affair.

"Part of my father's legacy to the game is what he has created with Muirfield Village Golf Club and the Memorial Tournament," said Jack Nicklaus II, general chairman of the Memorial Tournament and chairman of Muirfield Village Golf Club. "A significant factor in the building of that legacy has been the overwhelming support from the fans and patrons of Central Ohio. They have always embraced the Memorial, as well as the other great golf events played at Muirfield Village Golf Club over the decades, and we fully expect golf fans to enthusiastically support The Presidents Cup."

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