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Major concession: two legends have big hearts

Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.

Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus laugh during the 2018 Concession Cup press conference.
Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus laugh during the 2018 Concession Cup press conference.
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At face value, the gesture was small.

In 1969, Jack Nicklaus conceded a putt to Tony Jacklin. That’s an accurate description, technically, but it’s missing key context. The putt came on the final hole of the Ryder Cup and it gave Jacklin the match, tying the score between Nicklaus’ United States team and Jacklin’s European squad. It was the first time in history the head-to-head event ended in a tie.

Even now, Nicklaus doesn’t see it as a big deal.

“What was it, this long?” he said April 17, measuring approximately a foot with his hands. “Well, maybe more like this.” He spread his hands another few inches, then shrugged. “I just gave him the putt.”

To Nicklaus it was just good sportsmanship. To Jacklin, and the rest of the world, it became so much more. It became “The Concession.”

Nicklaus’ recollection of events came while the two men were sitting at the Concession Golf Club, which was named after Nicklaus’ act of sportsmanship, during a press conference for the Concession Cup, an amateur match play tournament modeled after the Ryder Cup. In fact, the course at Concession was designed by both men, though Nicklaus said Jacklin thought of most of the ideas which led to it being named the best new private course in the country in 2006.

At last week’s tournament, won 23 and a half to 4 and a half by the United States, Nicklaus and Jacklin were honorary captains for their respective countries. They like match play, they said, because it creates camaraderie between teammates and even opponents, something normally missing during the solitary sport. It’s that camaraderie that led to The Concession.

Laughing, Jacklin said his memories of "The Concession" are more clear than what he did last week. “I was pretty shocked," Jacklin said. "It was a hell of a thing to do.”

Seeing these two legends interact, even as a novice golf fan, was thrilling to me. The Golden Bear with 18 major titles and Jacklin, with two, in the flesh. When Nicklaus entered the room a few minutes late, he gave a spirited "Hi, kids!" to the press corps. Jacklin smiled. They shook hands and patted each other on the shoulder before sitting. I don't get starstruck too often, but this was a "wow" moment.

"Their Concession" 49 years ago showed the power sportsmanship can have. I've tried to carry a similar sense of respect in every competitive atmosphere in which I find myself, sports or otherwise. 

Enough about that, because as cool as that sight was, the tournament is about more than old friends reminiscing. It’s also about raising money for charity. Since the inaugural Concession Cup in 2014, the tournament has raised more than $350,000, and this year, the charities include the Sarasota/Manatee chapter of The First Tee and the Paul and Toni Azinger Compassion Center, a One More Child initiative, which benefits kids across Manatee County (Paul Azinger, who lives in Bradenton, is the tournament’s honorary chairman). Nicklaus’ charity, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, will also benefit.

This year, the tournament raised $300,000 on its own. 

“To see some of the kids and things that happened, it makes well up with tears,” Nicklaus said. “I’m here because of my charity. A lot of kids here will benefit.

It’s golf. It’s what it does. It’s just a great game.”





Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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