Roy Ranslow waited for the man regarded by many as the best to ever play golf to emerge at the American Lake Veterans Golf Course today.
Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear himself, was visiting the Lakewood course to help chart its future. He donated the services of his design team for the nine-hole-course’s expansion to 18 holes. He is also honorary co-chair of the committee trying to raise $3 million to pay for the project.
But Ranslow was there for his own reasons. The 79-year-old man from Lacey wanted to remind Nicklaus that back at the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol Golf Club, Ranslow provided security for him and Arnold Palmer on the course.
Today, Ranslow waited near the driving range at the veterans course with a magazine that published a photo of Nicklaus at the 18th hole of the 1967 open. In the crowd was his young security guard.
“He was kind of a dedicated golfer, and he was quiet,” recalled Ranslow, who retired from the Army in 1981 as a sergeant major. “He didn’t say much and you didn’t say much to him.”
And the people who were at the golf course near American Lake Hospital didn’t get a chance to say much to Nicklaus today, either.
He spent most of the day with a team of designers, along with photographers and cameramen from various media, touring the grounds of the veterans course, which pegs itself as the only one in the country designed for disabled veterans.
Around 8:30 a.m., Nicklaus arrived at the course and toured the front nine. It was then onto the site of the future back nine – an area covered with trees and tall grass.
It was the first time Nicklaus visited American Lake Veterans Golf Course. Officials said he and his team had preliminary designs before their arrival today, but even some of those designs changed after the visit. None of those details were made public.
Meanwhile, the buzz back at the driving range and the course’s Rehabilitation and Learning Center for veterans was the presence of golf royalty.
Before he toured the course, Nicklaus chatted with veterans, signed autographs and took pictures with fans who were both adoring and grateful that he had found his way to their forested pocket of Lakewood.
Linda Lamonica, operations manager at the course, donned a “Nicklaus yellow” cap autographed by the man himself.
“He’s genuine,” she said. “He was very generous with his time.”
Nicklaus finally returned to the center at 11:20 a.m. He stopped to sign balls and hats, as well as take pictures, despite someone from his entourage trying to get him to leave.
Nicklaus was supposed to leave 20 minutes earlier to fly to Korea, no doubt on his private jet.
But his followers were star-struck and made a quick escape difficult.
“Hey Jack, did you get any sun out there?” asked someone from the crowd.
“No, but I got a lot of dust,” he responded.
Before jumping into a large, tan SUV, Nicklaus spoke to his fans.
“We’ll see ya’ll soon again, OK.”