Nicklaus Wearing His Lounge-Room Slippers, Eating His Signature Triple Chocolate Ice Cream But Sadly A Last Honda Classic.

One of the fondest memories in attending the Honda Classic has been the joy to sit in the company of tournament host, Jack Nicklaus.

It’s always been customary at each Honda Classic, as it is at the Memorial in Ohio, for Nicklaus to give his time to the visiting media in hosting a media conference at some time convenient during the course of either tournament.

It is a little more formal at the Memorial but at the Honda Classic it’s much more relaxed.

The Honda Classic is also Nicklaus’ home event, living as he does just a short drive from his residence at West Palm Beach, and passing by such buildings at the head office of Golden Bear Enterprises at 3801 PGA Blvd and also, if he wishes, driving a portion of the way along Jack Nicklaus Blvd and, if so, driving past the public access North Palm Beach Golf Club that Nicklaus re-designed for the princely sum of $1.

Nicklaus in the Honda Classic media centre always is assured a full house and while there is never a formal agenda or the release of any formal news, all and sundry present are kept captivated.

Jack Nicklaus looking so comfortable wearing his slippers. (Photo @TourMiss)

Though there was the 2015 Honda Classic.  It was the year, and due to poor weather, the event went into a Monday play-off with Padraig Harrington ending a seven-year winless drought either side of ‘The Pond’ to defeat Daniel Berger in a play-off.

The win was Harrington’s last on the regular PGA Tour and materialised 10-years after his first, and that being victory at the 2005 Honda Classic.

I recall Nicklaus visited the media centre on the Friday morning looking very relaxed as he always did and naturally wishing everyone ‘Good Morning’ and other pleasantries.

It was always the one visit to the media centre I was not going to miss, so I parked myself in the very front row as the golfer known affectionately as ‘The Golden Bear’, the winner of 18 majors and well over 100 other worldwide victories, took him place in a brigh red coloured, high-back lounge chair.

As the chat with Jack got underway what surprised me was Nicklaus’ footwear – no socks but a well-won pair of suede moccasins or what we would commonly call ‘slippers’.

I took a snap of Nicklaus wearing the ‘slippers’ and still thinking to myself seven years on, you don’t have to dress ultra-smartly just because you’ve won 18 majors.   No, you can be like golf’s Golden Bear and get away with wearing anything as long as it’s comfortable.  And Jack looked comfortable, and so comfortable that he looked like he’d come straight from reading the local Palm Beach Post in his living room.

And to stay with the Nicklaus theme there is always plentiful supplies of Jack Nicklaus signature ice-cream in the media centre with Nicklaus helping launch the brand that boasts his picture and a Golden Bear logo in 2015.  There’s seven mouth-watering flavours including Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl along with Coffee and Donuts, Warm Spiced Butter Pecan, Salted Caramel Toffee, Strawberry Lemonade and my favourite Triple Chocolate and Homemade Vanilla

Moving from mouth-watering to tasteless is the sad news this year’s 51st hosting of the tournament under the Honda banner will be the last and meaning there will no longer be the sight of a gleaming new Honda proudly on display in front of the PGA National clubhouse.

No, the longest-running sponsorship of any event on the PGA Tour will end with Honda stepping aside after first coming on board in 1982. This year will be the 42nd and final Honda Classic with a new, yet to be announced sponsor taking over in 2024.

Honda Classic Tournament Director Andrew George recently told Golfweek: “We’re going to get right to work on solidifying a place for 2024,” George said. “We’re not going to be without a title sponsor, without an event going forward. The moment is going to continue.”

A change in Honda Classic sponsor corresponds to a PGA Tour moneytary downturn in the event that used to boast one of the strongest fields on the Tour but look now at its place on the 2022/23 wraparound schedule – with the $8.4m tournament sandwiched between two $20m events in the two weeks prior to this week and to be followed by two events offering prizemoney of $20m and $25m.

And what must also hurt is that this year’s total prize purse is among the lowest this 2022/23 PGA Tour season.

As well, just five of the then world’s top-50 contested the 2021 Honda Classic while just six of the current top-50 in the world, including Shane Lowry at No. 20, will tee-up this week.

It would seem it’s just not enough prize-money for many of the PGA Tour’s best golfers, and a good few living on the Bears Club estate and just a short drive from PGA National, that they would want to get out of their longue room slippers and into their golf shoes for this week’s ‘home’ event.

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