Golf Digest Interview: Jack Nicholson

Continued (page 5 of 5)

Do you play in club tournaments?
Occasionally. I'm deadly in scrambles. With somebody else driving the ball, I go straight from a 15 to a 4. There's an annual scramble at Sherwood, with a bunch of NHL players who can really hit a golf ball. Last hole, all tied, I've got a long putt for my foursome. I've watched my three guys miss this 40-footer, and I saw the line. Rolled mine up there and bam -- canned it for the tourney. Before it was over, I got to watch these four NHL stars sitting 15 feet from the hole with a chance to tie us. That was the best part, watching the hockey guys get a little rattled and miss that 15-footer four times in a row.

Tell us your Tarzan story from the 12th at Riviera.
Yeah, yeah. My buddies will never let me forget that. It's the only time I couldn't take the ribbing. I call it the Tarzan hole because on No. 12 I hooked one down the left, over by the fence.

I was so furious with the 20-yard 5-iron I hit out of there that I reached up and grabbed these vines hanging from the tree and yanked them as hard as I could. They pulled back! Lifted me straight up in the air so I was flying around for a few seconds before I came down. Now I can't play that 12th at Riviera without somebody saying, "The Tarzan hole!"

Are you part of a regular foursome?
I play with friends: Rudy Durand, Ed White, Doc Steiner, guys who belong to the same clubs. Jim Gray sometimes. Billy Crystal. We have a good time, which is why I play -- not to get overly competitive, just to enjoy. And not too early. It took me years to convince my buddies to tee off at 3 o'clock instead of 1 o'clock. Everybody plays at 1, and it gets slow -- tee off at 3, and you get done at the same time.

Here's another rule: Nobody in my group gets to carry a cell phone. Doc's exempt because he's a surgeon; he's on call. But other than that, lose the phone.

I don't even own a cell phone. "The course is no place to do business," I tell them. "We're here to play golf."


"We were on the ninth hole at Sherwood Country Club. Dennis Hopper hits his ball in a creek and goes to look for it," says Rudy Durand, who played with Nicholson, Hopper and Michael Jordan that day. "He's stomping around in there and chases out a bunch of quail. Now Hopper comes running out, yelling 'Oh my God!' with this load of quail flying around his head--just as Jack is swinging! Jack's ball goes off a quail, off a tree, bounces on a rock and finally rolls into the creek.
"He watches it go in there, and finally says, 'Even I gotta take a stroke on that one.' "

Have you played with guys who got overly competitive?
NBA guys are tough. I've played a few times with Michael Jordan, and MJ is very, very competitive. I'd like to tee it up with Larry Bird, but he won't. Talk about competitive! Bird won't play with what he calls us "fat-bellies." I got to play with Charles Barkley when he was just starting, and Charles is the most fun guy you'll play with -- just all-time entertaining. He had something like 11 stops in his swing.

You want to know what foursome would suit me to a T? Charles, Bird, MJ and me. Those guys can all talk. You'd have to tape it, with a little parental advisory.

We'll try to set that up. Who's your pick to win?
MJ is a player, but Bird's good, too. It sure wouldn't be me or Charles.

Do either of your kids play?
I got my son started. Ray's 15, a high-school football player. On the ninth at Lakeside [224 yards] he knocked it on the green the second time he played the hole, which I haven't done for years. He's got a good turn, hits the ball a long way. My daughter Lorraine is a couple years older and a good athlete, but she tried golf and wasn't immediately better than her little brother, so she dropped it.

Tell us about a favorite day on the links.
St. Andrews would be hard to beat. The Old Course. Half the time I had no idea where to aim. Lucky we had caddies, or I might still be out there. But I shot 76 that day. And it was a real 76 -- the caddies kept score! Knocked my drive over the O in the HOTEL sign at the Road Hole. Parred it. Went over the green at 18, got it up and down. There were long shadows by then. The sun stays up late over there, so we'd started at 4 in the afternoon, which is just right for me.

Few hours after we finished, it's going on midnight. Relax, have a little dinner, and the NBA Finals come on TV at 3:30 in the morning. And that, my friend, is a legitimate great day.

Nigel Parry
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