For Jack Nicklaus, it was always Ohio State and only Ohio State

Adam Jardy Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch

The thought of not going to college never crossed the mind of a young Jack Nicklaus.

Sunday morning, as the final round of the Memorial Tournament was getting underway at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Nicklaus was on hand to recognize this year’s collegiate winners of the annual award that bears his name. As one discussed having briefly considered never playing collegiately, and another mentioned his pending transfer for his final season, Nicklaus was asked: had he considered skipping college?

In short: no.

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“I was recruited by a lot of schools and offered scholarships,” he said. “I told them, don’t bother. I was going to go to Ohio State because I wanted to go to Ohio State. I hadn’t missed an Ohio State football game since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t about to miss one.”

Jack Nicklaus speaks to the media on Tuesday afternoon before the 2021 Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 1, 2021.

Nicklaus said he paid for his room, books and tuition through the second quarter of his senior year thanks to having won two $1,000 scholarships from winning golf tournaments while in high school. His first week at school, where he studied to be a pharmacist like his father, Nicklaus met his eventual wife, Barbara. When he returns to town, Nicklaus said he still often meets with as many as a dozen of his fraternity brothers.

“College is what you want to make it,” he said. “I think that the growth you get from being around people and disciplines and learning how to budget your time and so forth is so valuable. College more teaches you how to learn, not what you learn.”

While at Ohio State, the Upper Arlington native helped the Buckeyes capture a 1961 Big Ten title thanks to an unorthodox request from coach Robert Kepler.

Golf great Jack Nicklaus at Ohio State University, 1961.

“(He) said, ‘Nick I’ve never asked you to do anything before. I need you to spread-eagle the field. I need you to win by as many shots as you can, otherwise I don’t think we can get this team through,’ ” Nicklaus said. “I won the Big Ten by 23 shots, and we won by 1.

“I never had a coach ask me to do something like that again. I was grinding, trying to get as many shots in as I could.”

The Buckeyes finished 11th at the NCAA Tournament, although Nicklaus won the individual title by beating teammate Mike Podolski in the final.

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Jimmy Walker reverses slide

Jimmy Walker entered the Memorial feeling discouraged about his game.

The 42-year-old Texan has struggled the past couple of years and arrived ranked 168th on the PGA Tour money list. He hadn't finished in the top 30 at any tournament this year.

That's why he was so encouraged by his bogey-free 7-under par 65 on Sunday. In five previous Memorials, Walker hadn't finished higher than tied for 62nd.

“That's the best I've ever gone around this place,” he said. “It's always kind of kicked me in the rear every time I come here.

“But I've been working really hard. I hit it pretty nice this week and today I really kind of had it all together, and I haven't in a long time. So it really feels nice.”

There was some question about Walker even getting in the field. He was listed as being 121st in a 120-player field. But he said he had confirmation that he was in.

“There was a computer glitch in the system,” Walker said. “I registered within time on 2 o'clock last Friday at Colonial, and I got my e-mail confirmation from the tour that I had a spot in the field. For whatever reason, the computer didn't like me or something, and it didn't put me in the field. So my caddie gets here and he's, like, 'Man, you're not in the field,' and I said, 'That's impossible. I've got my e-mail confirmation. So I knew I was good to go.”

Scheffler on the cusp

Scottie Scheffler finished third, two shots behind Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa. He shot a 2-under 70 on Sunday.

"I felt like I played pretty good," he said. "I made a few silly mistakes here and there, but overall I felt pretty good about how I played. I gave myself a chance to win down the stretch, I just wasn't able to hit the ball close enough to the hole and then wasn't able to make the putts I needed to."

Scheffler needed a birdie on 18 to tie for the lead, but his approach shot landed in the greenside bunker.

"I hit a great shot into 18," he said. "I had to be aggressive with that pin, the way the guys behind me were playing and just got a weird gust of wind ... and ended up coming up short."