April 12, 2010 – It’s a familiar scene for the first part of April—a golfer approaching the 18th green to a gallery of cheering fans. For Augusta National, it’s an annual rite of spring. At Great Waters golf course, however, it was truly a unique experience.
On April 6, just days before the Masters tournament began an hour east of the Great Waters golf course, Reynolds Plantation members gathered at the newly reopened course to welcome the legendary Jack Nicklaus back to one of his Signature Courses.
Nicklaus joined members of the Nicklaus Companies for a tour of all 18 holes as wife, Barbara, enjoyed a visit in the Great Waters clubhouse. After his tour of the course, which included a number of handmade signs from residents to “Welcome Back Jack,” the Golden Bear greeted close to 700 people who had gathered between the 18th green and the clubhouse to celebrate the opening of the golf course with the designer himself.
“This golf course is beautiful,” said Nicklaus. “I spent a lot of time here on this course when we started designing it 20 years ago. It has been a while since I have been back, but when you return you are reminded how pretty it is here.”
“It is rewarding to see the number of people who are enjoying the fruits of our work,” added Nicklaus. “Of course, there are a lot of fruits of other people’s work here, too. You have got Cupp courses, a Fazio course and designs from others. You have a lot of golf, a lot of great weather, and a great lake to enjoy. You’ve got all the elements here.”
The speech concluded with Nicklaus entertaining the crowd with a ceremonial “first putt” on the MiniVerde practice green, using a limited-edition replica of the putter he used to win his sixth Green Jack at the 1986 Masters putter. The putter was signed and presented to Bob Mauragas, vice president of golf at Reynolds Plantation, as a keepsake for the community. Nicklaus then signed autographs, spoke to the children as well as media in attendance, and visited with a number of guests who were thrilled at the opportunity to speak with the golf legend.
Afterward, Nicklaus departed for yet another event–a Masters press conference in Augusta, Ga., where hundreds of media awaited him to discuss his first-time role as the Honorary Starter for the Masters Tournament. The Golden Bear joined Arnold Palmer on the first tee Thursday morning for the ceremonial swing to christen the opening round of the 2010 Masters. Nicklaus became the eight golfer in history to take part in one of the great traditions in the history of the Masters and the game. But for that moment at Reynolds Plantation, a blessing of the course and ceremonial putt combined to make for an event that guests would cherish forever.