Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pining for a golf event that never came to fruition

The front page headline a couple weeks ago proclaimed, “Bear sighting in NE Ohio.”
It turns out the bear in question was one Jack Nicklaus, known throughout his illustrious golf career as the Golden Bear.
He was in the news in Northeast Ohio because of his appearance at Elyria Country Club on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Benefit, which raises an enormous amount of money every year for Lorain County Community College.
It was a longtime friend of Jack’s, Judge Joseph Cirigliano, who persuaded him to lend his name to the golf outing in hopes of raising funds for the college. To say that the effort has been successful would be an understatement. Over those 25 years, more than $1 million has been raised to benefit the endowment.
I think that has been a terrific undertaking, and my fervent wish, after playing in the Elyria event two or three times, was that we could do something on the same order involving Pine Ridge Country Club and Arnold Palmer to benefit Lakeland Community College.
Joe Cocozzo and I tried hard to make that happen, but our plan met several roadblocks and it just never worked out.
The Elyria event was not cheap. I would say it is one of the more expensive golf outings I have ever heard of. But the charity was a worthy one, and nobody grumbled about the cost — least of all Joe and me.
We didn’t complain because our entry fees were paid by our legal firm, which had managed to put a couple of kids through college with its income from a libel suit or two it had defended on behalf of The News-Herald.
I am doing this from memory (I should check this out with Joe, because his memory is infallible) but as I recall, the entry fee was $400 per golfer.
And here’s an added moneymaker: The pro, in the case of the original event, Nicklaus, would play nine holes with two groups, for an additional $5,000 per golfer.
Yes, that many players were willing to kick in $5,000 each for the privilege of playing either the front side or the back side with the Golden Bear.
Joe and I never approached our legal team with a request to be included with these elite groups. Besides, the fivesomes were routinely sold out.
After Nicklaus originated the event, a different pro was invited every year (always on a Monday, the traditional day off for professional golfers) to lend his name to the event.
And by the way, the pro picked up a check for $25,000 just to appear, play 18 holes of golf and put on a clinic for the rest of the “investors.”
What the pros did with their one-day paychecks was their business. It was also a matter of interest — at least, to me it was.
Some of them, like Nicklaus, gave the money back to the college. Nice gesture. Others pocketed it, presumably because they had bills to pay.
I heard stories about which were the generous ones and which were the cheapskates, but I am reluctant to divulge the names for fear of telling tales out of school.
I remember vividly an event featuring Lee Trevino, because of an incident at breakfast. We had to get there about 7:30 a.m. before the golf got started.
As we were eating our scrambled eggs, I told Joe, who was my boss at the time, he being the N-H publisher, “I’m going to ask Trevino (who was seated at the head table) to autograph this golf visor so we can auction it off to raise money for Clothe-A-Child.”
Trevino complained bitterly about my request. “They don’t even let you finish eating around here,” he growled.
Swell guy, I thought. I was doing it not as a fan of his but for charity.
Another year when Joe and I played in the outing, the event was headed by not one but two professionals — Ken Venturi and Jan Stevenson.
Jan was one of the better looking golfers I have encountered in many years of golf watching.
Venturi left early because he had to catch a plane for California. Stevenson stuck around for our golfing edification and a ball-striking clinic.
Another year Joe attended but I wasn’t there. He said Chi Chi Rodriguez put on an amazing demonstration in which he placed two golf balls on the ground, hit them in quick succession to slice one and fade the other, with the intention of making them collide in mid-air.
“Did they?”  I asked.
“No,” said Joe. “But they came awfully close.”
Since Arnie Palmer played out of Pine Ridge in Wickliffe when he won the National Amateur, we though it would be great to put on a similar scholarship event in this area to benefit Lakeland.
Unfortunately, we were never able to make it work out.


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