Nicklaus Puts on Clinic for Youngsters in Arkansas


ROLAND, Ark. -- A rusty Jack Nicklaus was still quite a sight for young golfers in Arkansas.
Nicklaus was this years guest star at the Jackson T. Stephens Charitable Golf Tournament on Monday. Although he admitted he doesnt play much these days, the Golden Bear was in impressive form as he demonstrated a variety of shots for a group of kids from Fort Smith and central Arkansas.
What Ill do today is sort of tell you how I think I used to play, the 68-year-old Nicklaus quipped.
Nicklaus clinic was held on the practice range at The Alotian Club outside Little Rock, in conjunction with the charity tournament. Each year, the club brings in a guest for a morning demonstration in front of a group of lucky kids. Tiger Woods came two years ago, and last year Phil Mickelson stopped by.
The charity tournament is named after Jack Stephens, the late billionaire, philanthropist and former chief executive officer of Stephens Inc. He also was at one point the chairman of Augusta National.
Nicklaus, who won a record 18 major championships, was relaxed and self-deprecating as he hit balls with several different clubs. One early shot landed on a green close to the flagstick.
A hole got somewhere near where my ball went, he said.
Nicklaus hadnt played since the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National about a month ago.
I love playing the game of golf, he said. But I love playing it the way I used to play.
Nicklaus can still show off, though. He explained how to hit draws, fades, high shots and low shots. Along the way, he passed on a few words of wisdom about how to approach the game mentally.
He also talked about how modern clubs are designed to hit the ball farther. In other words, a pitching wedge is now a lot more powerful than it used to be.
Nobody ever heard of a gap wedge until you didnt have a pitching wedge anymore, Nicklaus said. Dont let what it says on the bottom of the club fool you.
Warren Stephens, son of Jack Stephens, could appreciate Nicklaus accomplishments a little more than the students.
I grew up watching Nicklaus in his prime, really, Stephens said. Its really neat'he makes the game so simple.
Nicklaus spoke briefly with reporters after the clinic. He was asked about his opinion of John Daly, the most famous golfer to come out of Arkansas.
I dont really have one, Nicklaus said. I think Ill dodge that question.
Nicklaus also talked about golfs popularity, and how it can be used to benefit charity at events like this.
Golf raises a lot of money every week, he said. Its pretty special.