The Loop

Nicklaus' clubmaker now a hall of famer

March 28, 2011

It's nice to see a guy with a pair of hall of fame hands be recognized. Except last night, those paws weren't those of a baseball, football or basketball player. Or a player, period. The hands being inducted into the Palm Beach County Sports of Hall of Fame belonged to Jack Wulkotte. Although Wulkotte's name may not be well known among everyday golfers, he is an integral part of pro golf history. That's because he was personal clubmaker for Jack Nicklaus.

Last year I wrote a story for Golf World on Nicklaus' equipment where I learned a bit about what Wulkotte dealt with while dealing with the Golden Bear. Wulkotte, 81, joined MacGregor in 1947 and became Nicklaus' primary equipment man thanks to a busted 6-iron. Nicklaus broke the club during the Jacksonville Open in 1963 and had it flown to MacGregor's shop in Cincinnati. Only the shop was closed. Wulkotte, however, hadn't left the shop and used his leverage to negotiate a whopping $32 for the repair--some eight times his hourly wage. Wulkotte's true talent, however, was in woods. "There are 125 steps to making a persimmon club," said Wulkotte. "I used to make 25 drivers for Jack and he might find one he liked." Nicklaus found enough he liked to become a hall of famer. Now his club man has become one, too.

--E. Michael Johnson**Follow me on Twitter @EMichaelGW