Rick Reilly Recalls His Encounter With ‘Broke’ Jack Nicklaus

Miracles do happen. In some cases, to the same journalist–twice.

As part of Sports Illustrated‘s 60th anniversary celebration, associate editor Ted Keith sat down with ESPN’s Rick Reilly to revisit the latter’s career-launching coverage of the 1986 Masters golf tournament. Miracle #1 is that Reilly had the SI job in the first place. As he tells Keith, when he traveled from LA to New York for a big Time & Life building lunchtime job interview, he was forced to borrow a sports jacket several sizes too big and knocked a glass of water into the lap of managing editor Mark Mulvoy.

Miracle #2 is even more astounding. Picking up on a tip that Jack Nicklaus, who would go on to win the 1986 tournament in dramatic fashion, was broke, a nervous Reilly shanked it way right. From the Q&A:

“So now I’ve got to talk to Jack Nicklaus for the first time in my life, I’m 28-years-old and my knees are knocking. I go up to him and I say, “Jack, I’m Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated. We hear you’re broke.””

“He looked at me and he could kind of tell I’m just so green. He goes, “Come with me, son,” and he takes me in the champions locker room. No reporters had ever been in the champions locker room. And there’s Arnold Palmer sitting there taking off his socks – it’s amazing who’s in there. He’s like, “Let me tell you what happened.” He says he’s not broke, but he did have a deal that went upside down, and so on. The whole time my hands are shaking.”

All these years later, Reilly still has lunch every year at the Masters with Nicklaus. But, he says, the Golden Bear never brings up that broke business. Plenty more great stuff in the Reilly Q&A.

[Image via: rickreillyonline.com]

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.