March Book Review

March Book Review

by Deb Long

 Golden Twilight: Jack Nicklaus in his Final Championship Season

by David S. Shedloski,2001

It will not be known for another 35 years whether Tiger Woods will have met let alone surpassed the standard set by Jack Nicklaus; whether Tiger will have accepted the inevitable and natural diminution of his prodigious golfing skills with as much grace and dignity as exhibited by the Bear in his last championship season.  In his book, Golden Twilight, David S. Shedloski shares Nicklaus’s emotional and physical travails during 2000 when the majors visited the storied venues of the Bear’s legend – Augusta, Pebble Beach and St. Andrews and Valhalla where the Bear has left his indelible mark.

Golf’s Greatest Master

Shedloski weaves a wonderful, bittersweet story of golf’s greatest master. His engaging prose traces the Bear’s final attempt to prepare for each major not just to ceremonially participate but to contend and to play like Jack Nicklaus. No other golfer, of course, has ever played the majors so well for so long. It is well known that Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors and two U.S. Amateur titles. What is not as well known is how often he was second. Nineteen times he was runner up in a major championship. Fifty-four times he finished in the top five. He won the U.S. Open and the Masters in three different decades. During the decade of the 70’s he never finished out of the top ten at the Masters. Beginning in 1966 and for the next fifteen years, Nicklaus never finished the British Open worse than a tie for 6th. He was a serious contender for twenty-four years and still rattled his saber at the age of fifty-eight at the 1998 Masters when he finished tied for 6th.

More than any other year, 2000 was an emotional journey for the man known not just for his ability to manage a course but to manage himself on and of the golf course. With each major he prepared and strove to regain a semblance of his former self.  Even at times when the swing would produce beautifully struck high, arching left to right shots, his body or more often, his putter would fail him. So many times, the author would share the Bear’s lament; I never struck the ball so well and had so little to show for it. In the old days, he made putts, not with the skill or smooth stroke of a Bobby Locke or Ben Crenshaw but with a steely glare and an apparent ability to will the ball, as if on command, into the hole.

Beginning of A New Era

2000 signaled more than the change of the millennium, it was the year that signified the end of one era and the beginning of another, Tiger’s. Although Nicklaus described 2000 as the year of his near grand slam in not making cuts, the author describes his final curtain call at each of the majors so poignantly that the occasional tear is inevitable. Recounted and preserved for our collective memory are Nicklaus’s 3 wood that put him on the 18th   green at Pebble in two – for the first time in twenty years – at his final and 44th consecutive Open Championship; the 2000 Memorial where as its 2000 honoree he humbly acknowledged in his speech that but for his wife, Barbara, he would have been just another golfer; the death of his mother at the beginning of the PGA Championship and her behest to him at his last visit that he play should she not make it through the week; the season’s final chapter written as he nearly holed his wedge for an eagle on the 18th, playing with Tiger, for the only and last time in a major and on a course that Jack built.

Anyone who came of age during the Nicklaus reign will surely experience a twinge as the author concludes his account of that final championship season. In as much as Nicklaus’s record speaks for itself, Shedloski’s words enlarge and give life to the numbers that are merely reflections of the man who loved his family above all and loved to compete more than any golfer who has ever played the game.


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