I was able to sneak away for a few minutes this week to watch Jack Nicklaus play in the Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf’s Demaret division. That’s the group reserved for players 70 years old and older, and there were certainly Legends playing Monday and Tuesday at The Club at Savannah Harbor.
That Nicklaus was paired with longtime friend and rival Gary Player — the Legends competitions are two-man team events — only added to the draw. Nicklaus has been my favorite golfer since I began watching and playing golf, and few professional athletes conduct themselves with the class and grace of Gary Player.
As Nicklaus and Player finished on the 18th hole, drawing a crowd of several hundred that was nearly three-deep around the green, the teams of Jim Colbert and Bob Murphy and of Frank Beard and Larry Zeigler played on the adjacent 10th hole in a playoff to determine the Demaret championship. Their handful of spectators was composed primarily of TV camera crews and Champions Tour personnel. Such is the power of the Golden Bear and the Black Knight.
The players who will take part in the Raphael and Legends divisions were getting in their practice rounds as the Demaret teams finished. The players talk about how much fun the event is, and there were evocations of “Caddyshack,” such as Fuzzy Zoeller bellowing out “ha-choo!” during Roger Maltbie’s backswing on the first hole. Maltbie piped it right down the middle.
Later, Zoeller and some cohorts were on a putting green. Much as Al Czervik, Rodney Dangerfield’s character, blasted Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” in the middle of the fairway, one of the carts pulled up close to the green blared Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.”
The Legends field looks like the World Golf Hall of Fame’s lobby — Tom Watson, Larry Nelson, Curtis Strange, Ben Crenshaw, Sandy Lyle, Andy North, Mark O’Meara, a veritable arsenal of multiple major champions and plenty more with a major in their bag.