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Jack Nicklaus on the importance of caddies (and the ones you want to avoid)

May 28, 2019

Welcome to You Don’t Know Jack, a five-part GOLF.com series in which — in a nod to the Memorial Tournament, being played this week at Jack’s place, Muirfield Village GC — we’re bringing you a daily dose of something you (most likely!) didn’t know about Jack Nicklaus.

Behind every one of Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles was a looper. Obvious, yes, but as Nicklaus pointed out in the June issue of GOLF Magazine, caddie are “the heart and soul of the pro game.”

One of them, in fact, was crucial to Nicklaus’ success at Pebble Beach, home of this year’s U.S. Open in just a little over two weeks.

“The first time I played Pebble, in 1959, I had a caddie named Didi Gonzales. He was Portuguese; a little guy with a big cigar. Didi was a legend around Pebble. He’d caddied for Jimmy Johnston when he won the Amateur in ’29. Thirty years later, he taught me everything there was to know about Pebble’s small, tricky greens,” Nicklaus wrote. “When Pebble landed the U.S. Open in ’72, Didi was gone. Back then, the USGA still compelled us to take local caddies instead of our regular loopers from the Tour. My guy that week was a local high school teacher, yet I won wire-to-wire.”

Gonzales’ help paid off — Nicklaus won three Pebble Beach Pro-Ams, too. He also had plenty of loopers over the years…

“In ’62, at Oakmont, I had a guy named Topsy Bugna,” Nicklaus continued. “Won that tournament, too. The next year, at Brookline, I drew a high school kid who didn’t play golf and didn’t know anything about caddying. That’s what you had to avoid. He was a nice kid, but he was in my way every time I turned around. I missed the cut. Caddies can play a large part in your game, especially on a course as challenging as Pebble Beach.”

Nicklaus’ long-time caddie was Angelo Argea, but you might recall who was on his bag for the last of his 18 majors: his son, Jackie.

Nicklaus Companies and GOLF.com are affiliates of 8AM Golf.