The world's greatest golf champion, Jack Nicklaus, headlined the 3rd Western Golf Association's Green Coat Gala on November 6 at the Peninsula Chicago. The winner of 18 major championships, two Western Open titles and the Western Amateur Championship, Nicklaus charmed the black-tie crowd of more than 400 fans with an intimate, all-encompassing interview of his life with host Andy North (himself a two-time U.S. Open winner).
The evening began in a penthouse suite on the 18th floor with a private reception. Huge terraces showcased sweeping views of the city but the crowd kept their eyes glued to the door waiting for the star of the night to arrive. You knew instantly the moment Nicklaus entered the suite as the strobe lights from dozens of cameras lit up the room. He graciously posed for photos as guests jockeyed for attention.
Another reception followed where a silent auction was displayed. The one of kind items included a vintage Walker Cup photo of the 1st team from 1922 with Chick Evans, Bobby Jones and Francis Ouimet; a Patrick Kane signed hockey puck; a Ryder Cup framed pin flag signed by European Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazbal and US captain Davis Love III; a football signed by Mike Ditka with Bears vs. Cowboys suite tickets; a Blackhawk's jersey signed by the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team and golf packages to Prairie Dunes Country Club and Quail Lodge & Golf Club.
NBC 5's Peggy Kusinski welcomed guests to dinner in the Grand Ballroom where dramatic floral arrangements by Kehoe Designs graced every table. Noted philanthropists Sharyl and Mike Mackey co-chaired this sold-out event for the third year that benefitted the Evans Scholars Foundation. To date, the Foundation has awarded tuition scholarships and full housing to more than 10,000 caddies from across the nation to top universities. Mark Abtahi, a current University of Illinois Evans Scholar, delivered a speech describing how this program has changed his life.
During the "Golden Bear's" interview, North talked about how Nicklaus had established tournaments in his home town of Arlington, Ohio, designed 380 courses in 36 countries; played an integral role in getting golf back into the Olympics and was the President's Cup caption four times. North had all of the Evans Scholars in the room stand saying, "Let's keep this thing going for another 83 years."
When North asked Nicklaus how he stayed so competitive he replied, "I always looked at myself as trying to climb a mountain and I never felt like I did. I think this dissatisfaction drove me." He also mentioned his wife Barbara's comment, "There's no excuse for not being properly prepared." In describing Evans Scholars he said, "A big part of coming to the Western Open was knowing you would have an Evans Scholar caddy, someone you knew you would develop a lasting relationship with."
When asked who he admired the most in the game, Nicklaus replied, "I have more respect for Lee Trevino, the way he turned his life around, more than anybody I know."
A line of golf balls, bearing Nicklaus' name will be launched with part of the proceeds going back to his children's charities, Nicklaus Children's Healthcare Foundations.
WGA president and CEO John Kaczkowski honored Nicklaus with an induction into the WGA Caddy Hall of Fame. "Jack remains golf's greatest champion, and his three Western Golf Association tournament titles make him an integral part of the WGA's history." The crowd gave him a standing ovation.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Nicklaus won the 1967 and 1968 Western Opens, and holds the record for most victories in professional golf's major championships, at 18. He has won 6 Masters titles, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens and three British Opens. He also won the 1961 Western Amateur.
The event raised more than $900,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation. (For more info, visit www.wgaesf.org)
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