PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Gone fishin'

Jack Nicklaus loved this pastime as much as golf while he played at Ohio State


Andy Lyons

DUBLIN, Ohio – Jack Nicklaus sometimes hung up a virtual “gone fishing” sign during his collegiate career at Ohio State. And his coach, Bob Kepler, not only was OK with his star golfer skipping practice, but aided and abetted him.

Nicklaus, founder and host of this week’s Memorial Tournament, personally announced on Tuesday the Division I winner of the award that bears his name, informing the media that Texas Tech’s Ludvig Aberg won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the top male golfer. Nicklaus made the announcement in conjunction with the news that Workday, presenting sponsor of the Memorial, had signed on as presenting sponsor of the award that has been named in the Golden Bear’s honor since 1988.

Winner of the 1961 NCAA Division I title, Nicklaus said that Kepler was the man responsible for introducing him to fly fishing. And then he let out a secret about just how much the two enjoyed the activity—and at a fairly odd time.

Said Nicklaus: “What he [Kepler] would do is he would come out and look at the sky and he would say, ‘Man, this is a beautiful day. It's too nice a day to go play golf. Why don't we get those guys started off the first tee and you and I will slip out the back door and go fishing.’ Which is what we did. We'd get the team started and we'd go. He knew I was always going to have my golf game in shape. He wasn't worried about that. So we'd go fishing, and we go over to Zanesville and we go trout fishing over there and we'd come back and we would go out and sit down and have a couple of beers together. Not many coaches sit down with their players and have beers, but we did. We'd catch a few fish, we'd cook the fish, and we had a great time.”

Nicklaus said that he had scholarship offers from several colleges, but the Columbus native was intent on attending Ohio State. “I told them don’t bother,” he said. “I said, Ohio State doesn't offer scholarships for golf, but it's where I was going to go. … I just went to Ohio State, and I just happened to play golf when I went to Ohio State.”

Got some fishing in, too. And hauled in his greatest catch there when he met his future wife Barbara.