For about 90 minutes on Friday, Tony Jacklin kept the Bradenton Country Club membership captivated, engaged and laughing.
An Evening with Tony Jacklin began with a short video presentation detailing tidbits about the golf legend’s career, before transitioning into the Bradenton resident sharing stories and answering questions from the audience.
“I’m fortunate I can still remember those early days,” said Jacklin, whose been a Bradenton resident for 17 years. “And I appreciate that people seem to like to hear the stories.”
Jacklin’s strong memory coupled with the delivery in his storytelling created a jovial atmosphere.
He shared stories on Tommy Bolt, Sam Snead, Gary Player, his brief time with IMG under Mark McCormack and his prize money when winning the British Open in 1969 and the U.S Open in 1970. He touched on the Ryder Cup, Bobby Locke and more.
And almost each story ended with the crowd cracking up.
“They’re very funny,” Bradenton Country Club head pro Brian Lake said. “Just from me knowing him, that’s how he is, which is kind of funny. It’s not a show, he’s telling stories like he’s talking to his family out here.”
But prior to Jacklin getting the microphone on stage at Bradenton Country Club, a video showed him ripping a drive 356 yards from the top of a building in England across the Thames River.
“That was a publicity stunt,” Jacklin said. “... There was a ship in the Thames with a ... light measuring the distances. They made a performance of bringing the golf balls on the silver tray. ... When you swing and looking at traffic down (there), you get this feeling you’re going to go with (the ball). So I was on my back foot the whole time.”
One funny story Jacklin shared involved the last Greek monarch, an exiled King Constantine II.
Prior to the 1973 Italian Open in Rome, Jacklin played the pro-am with the exiled king. The first green is where the fun began, because Jacklin’s caddy at the time, John “Scotty” Gilmour, held the flag for King Constantine II.
“He said, ‘In or out, king,’” Jacklin said. “I said, ‘Scotty, you can’t call him king. It’s your highness or your majesty.’ (He said), ‘How the (heck) do I know, I never caddied for no king before!’”
Later, he shifted toward a time in South Africa with fellow golfer Gary Player. Player was in need of a swing tip from one of the best ball strikers of all-time, Ben Hogan. In those days, it took a long time to send and receive an international call. So Player waited eight hours for the phone to ring.
When it did, the call was super short.
When he picked up the phone, he goes, 'This is Gary Player and Mr. Hogan, can I ask you a question about the backswing. ‘He says, 'What clubs do you play?' (Player) says, 'Dunlop.' (Hogan) says, 'Well, ask Mr. Dunlop.' And hung the phone up.
Tony Jacklin on Gary Player waiting for eight hours on an international call from Ben Hogan about the golf swing.
“When he picked up the phone, he goes, ‘This is Gary Player and Mr. Hogan, can I ask you a question about the backswing,” Jacklin recalled. “’He says, ‘What clubs do you play?’ (Player) says, ‘Dunlop.’ (Hogan) says, ‘Well, ask Mr. Dunlop.’ And hung the phone up.”
Jacklin also detailed his winnings for his two major titles. He earned 4,250 pounds for his British Open title in 1969, while winning $30,000 for triumphing at the U.S. Open in 1970. In comparison, last year’s U.S. Open winner, Dustin Johnson, earned $1.8 million and the 2016 British Open winner, Henrik Stenson, walked away with $1.5 million.
So when Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf called in 1967, Jacklin said he couldn’t turn it down because they paid him $4,000 to play in the event that was filmed in South Africa. And down in that nation is where Jacklin saw a player known for his patience and putting skills.
Bobby Locke spent 20 years not losing a tournament or match in South Africa, and his putting chops were impressive.
“He’s the best putter I’ve ever seen,” Jacklin said.
Jacklin’s career is also synonymous with the Ryder Cup, which he helped build into what it is today. In 1987, Europe’s first win on American soil, a funny moment occurred.
During his victory speech, Jacklin gave credit to everyone except Payne Stewart, who he forgot because he wasn’t wearing his trademark knickers. Nick Faldo, though, is telling him to say Stewart.
“It’s already become clear I’ve forgotten his name,” Jacklin said. “... That night, I got into my room and there was a photograph under the door, ‘Best wishes, Payne Stewart.’”
It was that kind of night at Bradenton Country Club, laughter punctuating a fun-filled event.