Nearly 55 Years Ago, Nicklaus Got His Start with an Unspectacular Payday

This gold Rolex wristwatch presented to Jack Nicklaus for his 1980 U.S. Open victory realized $33,460 at an August 2013 Heritage auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On Jan. 8, 1962, a chubby, 21-year-old pro golfer picked up a check for $33.33 after tying for 50th (last place) with Billy Maxwell and Don Massengale in the Los Angeles Open.

The tournament was played at Rancho Park in West Los Angeles.

Thus began the pro career of the best golfer of all time – Jack Nicklaus, who went on to win 18 Major Championships (the record) … six Masters, five PGA, four U.S. Opens and three British Championships (The Open). He also won two U.S. Amateur Championships.

He would go on to win 73 PGA tournaments and 10 on the Champions (Seniors) before retiring in 2005.

His pro winnings were $9,102,462 and in 2004 he was named the Golfer of the Century/Millennium. Golf Magazine named him Golfer of the Century for 1888-1998.

On that sunny day in California in 1962, I had decided to follow Phil Rodgers, who shot 62 (9 under par) and won the tournament by 9 strokes … 21 better than Nicklaus.

Who knew?

P.S. Billy Casper was the first golfer to win more than $200k in one year ($205,168 in 1968). In 2015, caddy Steve Williams earned $1.27 million.

P.P.S. Since the prize money for last place in 1962 was $100 and Maxwell, Massengale and Nicklaus each got $33.33, what happened to the extra cent? Yes, I know it takes a curious mind to think of this, but you have to pay attention to the small things.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

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Hector Cantu

Hector Cantu was the editor of The Intelligent Collector magazine.

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