FLORIDA: We always remember the first time we met our idols. For Zimbabwe, golf legend Nick Price, it was at the 1983 British Open when he first got to play a competitive round with legend Jack Nicklaus.
“Jack had such an impact on my life,” Price said. “He was the first guy I ever looked up to as a golfer. He was winning everything when I picked up golf. So many of us read his books and tried to model our swings like him, like the youngsters do today with Tiger (Woods) and Rory (McIlroy).
The 1983 British was an important time in Price’s life. In the previous Open, he had lost a late three-shot lead to Tom Watson and was still trying to learn the art of winning. Playing with the Golden Bear was a seminal moment.
“The first time I met Jack I was so nervous, as nervous as I would be if I was meeting royalty,” Price said.
“When I played with him at the ’83 Open, he treated me as an equal and that meant a lot to me. I was 26 and some of the older guys could be a little tough on you. Jack was a true gentleman and that spoke volumes about him and his character.”
A decade later, Price started winning major championships as he briefly became the Jack Nicklaus of his era.
He won his three majors (1992 and 1994 PGA and 1994 British) in a two-year stretch to become the world’s top-ranked player for more than 40 weeks.
About two years ago, Price received a call from Nicklaus to give him the news the Martin County resident wasn’t expecting to hear: He had become the Memorial Tournament — Jack’s tournament’s — latest honoree.
“I about fell on the floor,” Price said.
“To have that phone call from Jack is something I’ll never forget. I had no idea what he was calling about, to be honest. It was such an honour.”
It shouldn’t have been a surprise: Between 1992 and 1994, Price won 16 of the 54 tournaments he played in worldwide, including the three major championships and The Players.
He won the PGA Tour and PGA of America Player of the Year Awards twice, and was the tour’s leading money winner twice.
Price was honored Wednesday after last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to Covid-19.
The 64-year-old Price finished his career with 18 PGA Tour titles and 24 more around the world.
“For a period of time — six or seven years in the 1990s — Nick Price was the best player in the world,” Nicklaus said. “Nick’s game was very efficient and he was long off the tee – long and straight.
“More importantly, Nick always gave of himself, to the game and to people. He was always known for being incredibly kind and congenial, and someone everybody liked. Nick has a great family, has always handled himself beautifully, and he has represented the game and himself well.”
Price moved to Jupiter Island in 1995, where he and wife Sue raised their three children.
Price’s friendship with fellow South Florida resident Nicklaus flourished over the years.
“Once I got to know Jack, I could ask him questions about golf and certain things about the game,” Price said. “Jack would never give you a knee-jerk answer; he would always think and be thoughtful with the answers. Some were so simple, it was hard to believe.”