TOPEKA (KSNT) – On Friday morning, 8-time major champion Tom Watson made his return to Topeka to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first round of golf at Topeka Country Club with Jack Nicklaus in 1967.
The two Hall of Fame golfers have combined for 112 PGA Tour wins, and 28 major championships during their 25-year careers. When they played TCC, Watson was just 17 years old, while Nicklaus was taking over the professional golf world.
“He (Nicklaus) had won the Masters the previous two years, and won the Open the year before,” said Topeka Country Club Presiden & COO Clay Meininger. “And within one month of being here, Nicklaus would win the U.S. Open again.”
Nicklaus and Watson both shot 74’s back in ’67 in Topeka. They also played with Washburn Hall of Famer Bill McDonald. It was on that afternoon when Watson, the young golfer from Stilwell, Kansas recognized his true potential.
“At that moment I said I have the confidence and I can play with the big boys,” said Tom Watson. “I can win against anybody out here. And from then on, for the next four or five years, I kind of ran the table.”
“Nicklaus is running The Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour this weekend in Ohio so he couldn’t make the trip to Topeka, but the 18-time major champion (the most in PGA history) had Watson deliver a message on his behalf.
“Guests of Topeka Country Club, 50 years ago at Topeka Country Club I had the chance to meet a young fellow who went on to arguably change the landscape of golf, and become one of the greats of our game,” said Watson as he read the letter from Nicklaus.
Following Watson’s ceremonial First Drive on the No. 1 tee, he took the time to interact with several youth golfers and offered tips on the putting green. It was an experience many of them will never forget, and it’s a memory Tom Watson can add to his collection from the Topeka Country Club.
“I’m a professional golfer and this is actually one of the beginnings of my dream of becoming a professional golfer right here when I was playing with Jack and watching him play,” said Watson. “It was just part of the fabric of building me into a professional golfer. It was a special day here and I will remember it very vividly. ”