Q&A: Meet Joe Black

Taylor Mitchell By Taylor Mitchell

March 15, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated March 14, 2014 at 10:15 p.m.

Joe Black

Joe Black   Taylor Mitchell for The Victoria Advocate

In 1962, Jack Nicklaus wasn't the golf legend as he is known today, but he was well on his way.

He was the reigning U.S. Open champion, had appeared on the cover of Time magazine and was given his own parade in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

But in one tournament in 1962, he would be given a two-stroke penalty that took away his two-stroke lead over the competition.

The penalty was for slow play and was administered by then PGA Tournament Director Joe Black.

"Nicklaus started playing the tour in '62, and he wasn't so easy (to deal with)," Black said. "We got through it. Jack is a good friend, and in matter of fact, he wrote in his first book - and one or two of his other books - that was probably one of the best things that ever happened to him."

In his autobiography, "My Story," Nicklaus said the penalty infuriated him because he felt that he was being unfairly singled out. But he later realized that it "was probably justified by my general pace of play."

Black served as the tournament director for six years and would always remain a part of golf.

Saturday, Black came to Victoria for the Hickory Stick Golf Tournament at The Club at Colony Creek.

The former president of PGA America, Ryder Cup and PGA Championship chairman, founder of Western Golf Properties and a 20-year manager for Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas took time from his day of hickory golf to answer a few questions for the Advocate.

What exactly does the PGA tournament director do?

You're in charge of running every golf tournament. That includes setting up the golf course, marking the holes, pin placements, tee placements, pairings of the players and administer play all four days. You deal with the players in disciplinary manners or any other player involvement. The tournament director is responsible for everything.

How did you become the tournament director at 23 years old?

By accident. I had quit playing the tour and was working in Amarillo at Ross Rogers Golf Course, and one of the guys I played with, Joe Zakarian, lived in Modesto, Calif., along with the PGA Tournament Director Harvey Rainer. Harvey knew me, and when Joe got home (from a visit with Black in Amarillo), Harvey asked Joe if he wanted to come out be his assistant. Joe wasn't interested and said, 'I just saw Joe Black in Amarillo, and you might call him.' So Harvey called me, and I took the job. Harvey got ulcers and had to quit, and then I was 23 years old, running the tour.

What was it like to be around when Arnold Palmer was in his prime?

It's easy to be around Arnold. He's such a great guy and such a great personality, so caring. That's the reason he is king, is because everyone loved him.

How do you think today's tour players would do if they played with hickory stick clubs?

I think they'd play essentially as well as they do today. But the golf courses wouldn't be as long as they are. At that time, 6,200 to 6,300 yards was a long golf course. Now, 7,500 is the norm because of the advancement of equipment. Sam Snead started out playing hickory and then switched to steel when it came out. Look at Bobby Jones's record. It was done with hickory shafts. They shot a lot of comparable scores. The golf courses weren't in as good of condition like now. They're great athletes, and they would adapt.



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