Jack Nicklaus made history at the 1971 PGA Championship, but why did it take place just a few weeks into the year? Let's take a closer look
A PGA Championship in February? Who would have thought? The major was moved from its August spot as Glory’s Last Shot to May in 2019, but back in 1971, the world’s finest battled for the Wanamaker Trophy just a few weeks into the calendar year. But why?
Why was the 1971 PGA Championship played in February?
The answer is, sadly, quite dull.
The 1971 PGA Championship was scheduled to be played over the East Course at the original PGA National Golf Club – now known as BallenIsles Country Club – in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
But, with a brutal, much-hotter-than-normal summer forecast, the PGA made the decision to move the tournament to February.
This meant that two major championships in a row were both the PGA, and that 1970 champion Dave Stockton only held his title for six months, with Jack Nicklaus taking the crown and, with it, becoming the first player to complete the modern-day career Grand Slam for a second time. (He did it for a third time in 1978.)
Nicklaus romped to a two-shot wire-to-wire victory ahead of reigning Masters champion Billy Casper, taking home $40,000 of the $200,000 purse.
“The 1971 PGA Championship was uniquely special,” he said later.
“I got to compete in a major on a course virtually in my backyard, it was the last time the PGA Championship was held in February, rather than in August, and, most importantly, the victory came on February 28 – my wife Barbara’s birthday.
“Without her, I would have never been the golfer I was fortunate to become.”
What else is there to say about Nicklaus? No-one has surpassed his 18 major titles, while only Sam Snead and Tiger Woods have won more PGA Tour events.
Nicklaus’ is a true legend of the sport and will be forever remembered as one of the best to ever swing a club, if not the best.
The Golden Bear was also lauded for his fantastic sportmanship and this was recognised in 2014 when he was given the Congressional Golf Medal by the United States House of Representatives “in recognition of his service to the nation in promoting excellence and good sportsmanship”.