Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Nicklaus turns 70, grabs fishing rod

Written by Bob Oliver on .

Jack Nicklaus turns 70 years of age this week, and it seems like only yesterday that the Golden Bear was dethroning Arnold Palmer as the King of Golf.

 

Oh, Palmer will always be The King, but Nicklaus will be known as the Greatest Golfer of his time and possibly of all ages.

 

Nicklaus will spend January 21, his 70th Birthday, with his favorite pastime, fishing. Go figure.

He'll be off the coast of Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean battling bonefish rather than scoring birdies. Hey, he's earned it.

 

The last time I had more than a passing conversation with Nicklaus came at what was then the Senior PGA Tour event Chester Valley in Malvern. Jack stopped in the Bell Atlantic Classic press tent after a second round 71. He had spent 20 or so minutes speaking about his game, the game of golf.

 

I had asked a couple questions in the press conference, but, quite frankly, wanted a little more, well, personal. Every question he was asked was about the game of golf, his own game, and what he saw in the future for the game. I wanted to know something about Jack, the person. I had hoped, while walking with him at the opening of a course in North Carolina, to get some personal insight but it wasn't to be. 

 

At Chester Valley Jack was looking ahead toward some time on the practice range and dinner. As he started to leave the press room I sauntered up and asked, "So, Jack, how's the fishing been?"

 

The first look was one of confusion, then a smile crossed his face.

 

"It's been great, really great," said the Golden Bear. "Hey, I have to tell you, the boys (sons Jack II, Gary, Steve) were off the Southwest Florida coast looking for Tarpon, and it was wonderful. The fish were hitting like never before. It was incredible. We had the best of times and it was so wonderful to be with them and have some fun."

 

Nicklaus motioned me back to a couple chairs and for the next 30 minutes we spoke about such topics as sight fishing, light spinning rods, river fishing and even the benefits of a six pound line.

 

Here's the thing, he could have been talking Russian for all I know about fishing. I didn't have the nerve of telling him about the flounder I caught off the rocks in Sea Isle City in my one foray at fishing.

 

Still, he was so excited. He spoke about being with his kids, enjoying the outdoors and especially the joys of fishing. Here I was, speaking with the World's Greatest Golfer, and hearing him revel on a completely different sport.

 

It was a fascinating conversation. He was so happy speaking about fishing and his family. About the fish he'd caught and the dreaded ones that got away. He spoke of tarpon, sailfish and silver kings, I merely nodded my head.

 

Sometimes I agreed, other times I came up with: "No way!"

 

These days Nicklaus still plays a little golf --- not a lot, but some --- but spends a lot of his spare time wading in a river or casting from a boat. Oh, he still has found the time to design nearly 300 golf courses in about 50 countries around the world. His big exercise is now tennis, which he plays several times each week.

 

In the hundreds of interviews I've done, that 30 minute escape from golf with Jack Nicklaus had to be the most fascinating interview I've ever completed. How I came up with the question was pure accident --- I had seen an interview where he listed tennis and fishing as endeavors outside golf --- and the conversation that ensued was totally unexpected.

 

It clearly wasn't the "what club did you hit into the eighth hole" question. What it did was open up a whole other side of the great golfer.

 

I've spent dozens of other times conversing with Nicklaus, but this one about fishing was the best.

 

Happy Birthday, Jack. Enjoy the fishing. You deserve it.