Raymond Floyd won his first major championship at NCR Country Club. And if he hadn’t met his wife, Maria, soon after that, he believes it likely would have been his last.
The Memorial golf tournament honors one of the greats in the game every year, and Floyd was recognized during a ceremony at Muirfield Village on Wednesday with Gov. John Kasich, PGA tour commissioner Tim Finchem and ex-players Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tony Jacklin, Andy North and Judy Rankin in attendance.
Floyd, 71, credits his wife of 39 years for shaping his career, which included four majors, 22 PGA victories and 14 Champions tour wins.
She died in September after a long battle with cancer.
“I had two careers — one before Maria and one after Maria,” he said, periodically wiping away tears. “I had won tournaments before her, but I was floundering around without much direction. Then I found Maria, and that changed my life.”
Developing a steely resolve, Floyd was known as a tough closer. He’s the only golfer to win on the regular tour and Champions tour in the same year.
His victory in the PGA Championship at NCR was disrupted by anti-apartheid demonstrations. He shot a 74 in the final round and held on for a one-stroke victory over South African Gary Player, who was targeted by protesters. He earned $35,000.
“The thing I remember the most is the apartheid demonstration in the group in front of me with Gary and Jack,” Floyd said. “If you ask me what stands out, that stands out more than my win.
“It was pretty tough conditions, obviously. I bogeyed the last hole and still won. In majors, if you get some wind and conditions, it can get tough.”
He returned to NCR for the 2005 U.S Senior Open and rekindled some memories.
“It was not identical to what I played in ’69, but it’s a wonderful, old, traditional golf course. And it puts a lot of value on shot-making,” he said.
Nice duds: Rory McIlroy played his pro-am round in Ohio State colors of scarlet and gray. It didn’t go unnoticed.
Asked if he’s a Buckeye fan, he said: “For this week, yeah. I didn’t even think about it when I brought it out of the wardrobe today. But I might have to get it cleaned tonight and wear it every day. I’ve been getting a lot of good comments on it.”
Looking sharp: Jack Nicklaus’ thinning blond hair became disheveled in the wind while making his way to the media center for his interview. And his wife, Barbara, began signaling him from the back of the room, interrupting him in mid-sentence.
Nicklaus, 73, said: “My wife is telling me my hair is blown out. I have to fix my hair.”
Matting it down, he looked at her and said: “Is that better?”
After laughter died down, he said: “She’s back there doing this (making circles around the crown of his head). She used to do that when I lifted my head when I putted. You’re not supposed to do that.”
Class by itself: Muirfield Village, which is in pristine condition, was picked to host the Presidents Cup in October. The Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup also have been played there, and it will become the only course to have hosted all three international events.