Last week’s column was a long one about Jack Nicklaus, but despite the length I still didn’t get to finish everything I wanted to say. Like how I got his autograph. Actually, “I” didn’t, but my wife did. Here’s how it happened:

Flash backward to the 1969 Masters, the year George Archer won. I was 12, and my father took me there for the first time. It must have been the Saturday round. We didn’t have tickets, but they were pretty easy to find back in those days. You’d just drive around for a while until spotting sidewalk huckster offering something reasonably priced.

I may be wrong, but I believe that was the year Dad bought two tickets from a couple of cops — say for $30 per ticket, which was a lot of money. Perhaps they were off-duty, but I do recall that they were in uniform.

Thinking he had turned as good a deal as could be expected, Dad was surprised to find two more tickets a few corners down for notably less, and then eagerly wrote a column a few days later chiding Augusta officials for letting their law enforcement people scalp unwary golf fans. I think it was all in good humor, but it stirred up a bit of a hornets’ nest and prompted a letter or two to The News and Courier editor, and so forth.

Anyway, Arnold Palmer was still (as he continues to be) a superstar in the golf world, although he hadn’t won a major tournament since the 1964 Masters, his seventh and final major championship.

He continued to generate tremendous charisma and élan on the golf course, and his enormous galleries thundered their approval with each good swing and grieved over the bad ones.

I remember going up to him after his round was over and nervously handing him a small black notebook, hoping he might sign — which he agreeably did, in very legible hand, near the outside edge of the first page, after rotating the booklet 90 degrees so he could grasp it better. The booklet became an instant keepsake, of course, and had spent the last 44 years tucked away in one drawer or another, not really seeing the light of day … until that fateful event at DeSano Pizza Bakery that I described in last week’s column.

I took the booklet with me. Having not sought out anybody’s autograph since Palmer’s, I felt silly at my age even thinking about it. But the rumor was that Nicklaus was actually going to be there, and the idea of possibly getting his signature next to Palmer’s was irresistible.

Well, as we all know, the rumor turned out to be fact. Not only that, Nicklaus ended up answering my questions for last week’s column, but then moved on to interact with other patrons. Thinking I’d missed the opportunity to get him to sign, my wife boldly stepped up and said, “Relax. I’ll get it — even if I’ve never asked anybody for an autograph before.”

And that’s exactly what happened. After waiting in line a few minutes, she said hello and offered him the booklet. “Please sign this, Mr. Nicklaus. It’s a great chance for you to sign right over one of your archrivals!”

Nicklaus inspected the small notebook. “My goodness,” he said. “How old is this thing? You have to admire the way Arnold always takes the trouble to make his signature so nice and legible.”

And with that, down went his John Hancock, on the inside cover, opposite the king’s — maybe not quite as legibly, but close. And now I’ve got two of the greats — side-by-side — forever, in my little black notebook. And thanks to my better half. How good is that?


In the it-looks-like-I-blew-it department, my liberal friends are furious with me for quoting Warren Buffett out of context a couple of weeks ago, in which I said he had reversed course on Obamacare and now describes it as “a tapeworm eating away at American competitiveness.”

I got the quote at a recent CME course in Seattle, which either the lecturer or I misinterpreted — probably me. Buffett very much supports Obamacare and his quote was made in 2010 regarding the pre-Obamacare American health care system.

My fault — sorry about that. “We regret the error.”

Also, Nicklaus’s 1-iron at Baltusrol referred to last week was actually his third shot — not second — after hitting his drive into the trees and then having to pitch out. Somehow I blew that too. He smashed it from 237 yards to 15 feet and then drained the putt for a birdie. A plaque remains in the fairway marking the spot of that famous shot to this day.


I always enjoy getting Jim Augustin’s monthly puns. It turns out that he and Walter Duane, a frequent contributor to this column, exchange witticisms. Jim says he could publish a digest of Mr. Duane’s wit and call it “Distilled Walter.”

Other observations:

Software that doesn’t work = a mis-app.

In the book of unusual facts, it has been noted that frogs and toads are often confused.

Angels fly because they take themselves lightly. (G.K. Chesterton)

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@