tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg June 7, 2020 3:00am-3:30am EDT
david: so, in your career, you won 18 majors, which was the most of anybody. many people think that trying to beat your record is impossible. jack: i don't know, tiger is pretty good. [laughter] david: in those days, the compensation was good, but not compared to today. jack: i was making as much money selling insurance as playing golf. i surpassed it, though. david: what is the key that makes somebody a great golfer? is it concentration? is it physical ability? jack: i think winning breeds winning. >> would you fix your tie, please? david: well, people wouldn't recognize me if my tie was fixed, but ok. just leave it this way. alright. ♪
david: i don't consider myself a journalist. and nobody else would consider myself a journalist. i began to take on the life of being an interviewer even though i have a day job of running a private equity firm. how do you define leadership? what is it that makes somebody tick? so let me go back to the beginning of golf and so forth. i am not a golfer, i have to be honest with you. i took it up when i was nine, i quit when i was 10. jack: i'm not one anymore either. david: but you were pretty famous in golf. it was too frustrating and here is what i cannot understand. why is it some new people are addicted to something that is so humiliating and frustrating to so many people all the time? the ball never goes where it is supposed to go. why are people addicted to it? jack: that is a pretty good question. i try to think about that, and it's a never-ending pursuit of an unattainable goal.
that's what it really is. [laughter] david: right. jack: you could try all you want. nobody has ever mastered the game. most all athletes in all the other sports love to play golf because it's difficult. it's challenging for them. it challenges them at whatever level they play. and i think that's why they enjoy it. that's why i enjoyed it. i enjoyed playing it because no matter how good i got, i could always be better. david: so when you were growing up, you played many different sports, is that right? jack: yes. david: you were recruited to play football at ohio state? jack: basketball. david: but you were a good football player as well? jack: decent, yep. david: so, at the time, golf was not your most important sport? or was it one of the three most important? jack: golf was another sport at the time. but once i started into college, i won a national trophy. but it got me on the walker cup team. now all of a sudden, i was one of the best 12 amateurs in the country. later that year, i won the national amateur and i was
ranked number one. and i said hmm, maybe i'm better at this than i thought i was. and then i almost won the u.s. open the next year. then i did win the u.s. amateur again the next year. i said, maybe i need to play against the best if i want to be the best. so it was a process. david: your father got you into golf initially? jack: yes. david: was he a good golfer himself? jack: he was a decent golfer as a kid. and then he quit for 15 years and was a pharmacist. he broke his ankle playing volleyball. he ended up having three operations and had it fused. and the doctor said, charlie, he says, if you don't want to end up in a wheelchair, start walking again. so we moved out to the suburbs, upper arlington, a country club. he joined their and took me along to carry the bag. he couldn't make a game because he couldn't walk very far. and that particular year, a fellow named jack grout came and the pga championship came to his iata -- to there that year. so i got all that in my first year of playing golf.
and it just got me charged up to learn a sport. david: jack grout became your coach for most of your career. jack: he was my coach until he passed in 1989. david: so your father and jack grout were the people who mostly got you on the way in golf, you would say? jack: yep. my dad was my best friend and my idol. i loved my dad. he just did everything with me. he just gave up everything for me. david: in those days, it wasn't clear that you could make a big career financially as a professional golfer. so you were thinking of getting a degree as an accountant, or to be a pharmacist? jack: i started college. i mean, most kids want to be what their dad was. so my dad was a pharmacist. so i went through pre-pharmacy. i hated afternoon labs. [laughter] david: right, so. jack: so my dad talked me, before i went to pharmacy school, my dad talked me into doing something else. so i started selling insurance. david: ok. jack: i just loved selling life insurance to my fraternity brothers. they really needed it. [laughter] jack: so i did that for a while, and i did pretty well at it.
and i was making good money. i got married and had our first child. but i really wanted to play golf. so that is what i did. david: you got married to barbara. jack: yeah. david: you've been married how many years? jack: 59 next month. david: 59 years. [applause] david: ok. the result is five children and 22 grandchildren? jack: that's right. david: now, you never forget the name of a grandchild when they come along. you know their names? jack: i know their name. i know 95% of their birthdays. [laughter] david: really? ok. that's pretty impressive. so in those days you were thinking of becoming professional. you weren't sure. you met with bob jones. did you -- robert jones? jack: yep. david: the most famous amateur golfer of them all. jack: yep. david: and how did you actually come to meet him? jack: well, he was a speaker at the banquet of my first u.s. amateur when i was 15 years old. at that time, he had gotten paralyzed as he went on, but he was still walking with canes at that time.
and he saw me play. coming in the last practice round, he says, young man, i am going to come out and watch you play a little bit tomorrow. the greatest player who ever lived, bob jones, is going to come out and watch me play. he came out in a merely bogey, bogey, double bogey. lost my match, but it was a great experience. he became a good friend. he was great counsel. he was a really, really good man. david: so you decided ultimately to turn professional in the year after you won the second amateur. you won the u.s. amateur twice. jack: yeah. david: after you had done that, you decided you would make a career out of it? jack: i didn't have any more goals, anything more to do in amateur golf. and i wanted to be the best i could be at playing golf. so i said, the only way that i could do that is to play against the best. the only way to do that is play against the pros. so that's why i turned pro. david: in those days, the compensation was good but not
compared to today. jack: no, i was making as much money selling insurance as i would have playing golf. david: but you did -- jack: i surpassed it. david: so, as you went on, you had a rivalry with arnold palmer a bit. he was the leading golfer when you came into the pros. and then you surpassed him in many ways. but what was it like in the early days when you were rising and he was at the top? jack: well, i wasn't real popular, because i started beating arnold. i wasn't popular myself because i was an arnold palmer fan. and arnold was a good guy. we got to be really close friends, our wives got to be very close friends. but he was, and he never really seemed to mind that i beat him more than he beat me. i'm sure he probably did inside. but he never let me know it. and he took me under his wing. he's 10 years older than i was. he was great to me. so i have nothing but love for arnold palmer. david: in your career, you won 18 majors, which is the most of anybody. jack: yeah.
david: and tiger woods has now won with the most recent masters win, 15. but many people think trying to beat your record is almost impossible. jack: i don't know. tiger is pretty good. [laughter] jack: pretty good. david: so let's see, you won the masters six times. jack: yeah. david: is that your favorite tournament, the masters? jack: probably so. yeah. david: in the course of your career, i remember, you've won more than 100 tournaments. is that right? jack: yeah. david: and 18 majors, and you were the leading money winner 7 times. the leading lowest shot for a tournament for a year seven times. there is no record in golf you haven't achieved. is that right? was there anything left for you? jack: i don't know if there's any record i haven't achieved, but my record is good. but you know, you can always be better. that is the neat thing about the game of golf. no matter how good you get at something, you can be better. david: so in terms of being better, it's hard to know how you can do much better than you
have done. but let me ask you a couple of things. what is the key to make somebody a great golfer? is it concentration? is it physical ability? is it just a combination of those things? jack: i think your mind is a big part about it. i think you have got to believe in what you can do. you've got to learn to play within yourself. i think anybody, in all walks of life, i don't care what business you are in, you need to work within yourself. and then you need to do what you can do, not what somebody else can do. and you start believing in that, and i think winning breeds winning. so, i was lucky, my first year i won the u.s. open. i won the biggest tournament in golf my first year out. and i believed that i could play. so all of a sudden, they started coming in a little easier for me. david: so in the first year that you won the u.s. open, was that in a playoff with arnold palmer? jack: i had to fight arnold's gallery a lot, but i never had to fight arnold. he always treated me with respect. he treated me like a fellow
competitor. and so i didn't have those issues. david: one of the most enjoyable tournaments people say to ever have watched, anybody could have watched, was the 1986 masters. when you were an old, old man of 46. jack: 46, yeah, i was a really old man then. david: it seems like a very old man back then -- jack: it is very young today to me. david: people -- no one had ever won a major over the age of 42. tiger won the masters now at 43. jack: yeah. david: 46 was considered ready for a golf cart or wheelchair, or something. jack: close. david: you were not leading that tournament until really near the end. you were four shots behind with the final nine holes to go. is that right? jack: yeah, the first time i led the tournament was after 71 holes. going to the last hole. david: but you were four shots behind at the final nine, did you actually think you could win?
jack: i birdied 9, i birdied 10, i birdied 11. i messed up 12 little bit. but then i birdied 13. and then when i eagled 15, and birdied 16 and 17, yeah, i thought i could win. [laughter] because i was in the lead. david: was that the most emotional win you have ever had? jack: well, you know, it is kind of funny. i had really finished playing golf by then. i had won two majors when i was 40 years old. and i really just enjoyed playing golf and i wanted to be part of the game. i just struck lightning in a bottle a little bit that week. and all of a sudden, i got around to the last nine or 10 holes and i remembered how to play. i mean, you get yourself in contention, and all of a sudden, much like what happened to tiger at the masters this year, when i saw the fellow start to fill up the creek at the 12th hole, he took this pretty little shot out, cut it in the middle of the green, i said, tournament is over. because he will remember how to play. and that's what i did, i
remembered how to play. and i remembered how to finish. that was really fun, being able to do that. david: you have also played a lot of presidents of the united states. jack: i have played with a few. david: which one is the best at playing golf? jack: well, the ones i have played with, actually trump is probably the best player. david: really? jack: trump plays pretty well. he plays a little bit like i do. ♪
david: you, early in your career, decided that you wanted to be involved in golf course design. and as i now understand it, you are have personally designed about 310 courses. and your company has designed over -- i guess it's 400 or so. jack: over 400, yeah. david: and about 1000 tournaments have been held on these courses, and they are in 46 different countries and 40 different states. so it's pretty impressive. jack: i got into it by following pete dye. pete dye has been sort of the premier golf course designer over the last 30 years or so. and pete one day called me. this was in the mid-1960's. he said, jack, i would like to have you come out and review a course. i want you to come out and see what it is. i said, what do you want me to see? he says, i want you to critique it for me. i said, pete, i don't know anything about design.
he says oh, you know more than you think you know. i went out and looked through the golf course, he asked me a couple things. i said i don't know anything about that. he says, yeah, you do. just tell me what you would like to see. and he did it. so it piqued my interest. and i got a call from charles frazier from the pines plantation from arbor town, hilton head island. he said, jack, i would like to have you do our golf course design. i said i don't know anything about that, but i have a young guy i am working with called pete dye, who i think i would like to work with. so i did that. i made a business into that with pete. and about six months before the tournament in tulsa -- we were going to have the heritage golf classic there, which was held there every year since 1959. arnold won the first tournament.
i loved it. i had a ball. it was just tremendous. david: talking about golf courses, your favorite course to play of any, other than the ones you might have designed, i assume those are the ones you like those the most -- jack: absolutely. it's like, who is your favorite child, the same thing. david: take the ones you didn't design. which ones would you say were your favorites to play? jack: well, if i had one round to play, i would probably go to pebble beach. we just left the u.s. open last week -- i love pebble beach. the scene out there, i won the u.s. amateur there. i won the u.s. open, three crosby's out there. i just love the place. my two favorite places in the game are probably augusta national and st. andrews. david: when you finished your professional career, i think it was 2005, your last tournament was the british open. so was that pretty emotional? jack: yeah. yeah. david: you had your family there. jack: i had my family there. they were all there. my son, steve, caddied for me. we stopped by the bridge that crosses the 18th fairway. and we didn't get a decent picture of steve. steve was crying too much. and tom watson was, he's crying. i'm trying to figure out how to finish the golf tournament. they are out there crying on me.
[laughter] so, we had a great time, though. it was fun. i loved it. i did not want to finish on friday, but i did finish on friday. david: so you, your last shot was a birdie? jack: you know, it is kind of funny because i wanted to make the cut that day. after i three-putted from the front edge of 17 trying to make birdie, i got to the 18 pole and hit the ball about 14 feet behind the hole. the ball had not gotten anywhere near the hole all day. and i knew that that putt, the tournament was over. no matter where i hit it, the hole was going to move in front of it. i started my career in major championships in 1957 with a birdie on the first hole i played. and i finished it on st. andrews with a 14-foot putt, a birdie. david: so after you got a birdie, you said, maybe i should stay a little bit longer? jack: i stayed long enough. [laughter] david: ok. so you have played with many prominent individuals over the years and prominent golfers. if you could pick any golfer to be your partner in a twosome, who would you want to have as your partner?
jack: i think i would have to pick tiger today. david: ok. jack: but through the years, i never got to play with bobby jones. even though i knew him and really loved the man. i would have loved to play with jones. i would have loved -- i played quite a bit of golf with hogan. hogan was fantastic. david: you have also played with a lot of presidents of the united states. jack: i've played with a few. david: and which one is best? at playing golf? jack: well, the ones i have played with, actually, trump is probably the best player. david: really? jack: trump plays really well. trump plays a little bit like i do. he doesn't really ever finish any holes, but he can hit the ball. he goes out and plays and enjoys it. but he has won several club championships. he can play. gerald ford, i played 50 rounds with ford. i used to play with him at the at&t every year. and ford was about a 13 handicap. but he played to a 13 handicap. clinton, i never knew what he
might do. clinton, he might play to a 10 or he might play to a 30. but he had a nice golf swing. he enjoyed it. all these guys enjoyed playing golf. i don't think any one of them really were very serious about the game, but they all enjoyed playing. it's good for the game of golf to have a president of the united states, you know? this is my game. david: when you are playing in those kinds of matches, fun with the president, and the ball is 10 feet away from the hole, why do people not say putt it out as opposed to go, you can have it? why is that done so much? jack: i think that is a little bit of politics. david: courtesy, or? jack: i think that is a little bit of politics, too. [laughter] you give me mine and i'll give you yours. that kind of routine, which is not golf. david: you have a grandson who recently, at a masters par 3 tournament, got a hole in one. is that a fairly emotional thing, to see your grandson get a hole in one?
jack: that's pretty good. it's kind of a funny story. his name is gt. gary thomas, after his father. he is a junior. we went out and played nine holes. i always ask the kids -- i have a different one caddy for me every year. the masters tournament, i said, do you want to hit a ball? he says, well, none of my cousins have gotten it on the green. i said, ok. he says, i would love to hit a ball. i said ok, fine. if you're going to get it on the green, you might as well hit a hole in one. he says, ok. he says, peepaw, i'm peepaw, peepaw thinks i will make a hole in one. he says, really? darn it if the next day he knocks it right in the hole. gary, who my son was named after because he was such a great friend and role model, gary was jumping all over the place. tom watson was jumping all over the place. david: i'd like to talk about how you and your wife have decided to focus a lot of your
david: so, when players are playing golf in a tournament, say you are paired with somebody, do you actually talk during when you're walking down the fairway? jack: sure. david: i thought they didn't even talk to each other. jack: the guys are good friends. arnold and i had a fierce rivalry. and we blew more tournaments
ourselves trying to beat each other than worrying about the you field. but we would get off the golf i course, and we would look at it and say, we did it again. we both shot 75 while everybody you else shot 65. but just the two of us tried to beat each other. but then we would shake hands and say, where are you going to dinner tonight? i love the golf kids today. i love watching when gary woodland finished. i don't know if you saw on television, but you saw four or five of the other players, six of the other players congratulated him after. when justin thomas won the pga two years ago, ricky fowler and jordan spieth were waiting for him down there when he finished on the 18th green. the guys really support each other. and they've got enough money. they are not worried about the money. they know it's a game. and these guys guys are their friends and they enjoy it. david: in recent years, tiger woods has struggled a bit. he went 10 years between winning a major tournament. do you think today that your record of 18 majors can be
broken by tiger? or by anybody? jack: i think so. the way brooks koepka is going, he's going to do it before tiger. i remember, the last one that tiger won before this was torrey pines in san diego. 10 years ago. tiger hit it all over the place and won the tournament. he had not had a back fusion. and his swing is much better now than it was then. he has now learned not to hit it hard, because he doesn't want to hurt himself and tiger's short game is fantastic. tiger is going to win a lot more tournaments. whether he is going to win three or four more major tournaments, i don't know, but tiger's 43, in the game of golf today, that is not really old. david: let's talk about philanthropy. i'd like to talk about how how you and your wife have decided to focus a lot of your philanthropy on children's hospitals. jack: well, we started, david, back with my daughter in 1966. our daughter, nan, was 11-months-old and she started choking.
and we couldn't understand why. we thought we would get her to the doctor and she would be fine. finally the doctor says, we need to get this gal down to the children's hospital. we went down to columbus children's hospital, now nationwide children's hospital. and they found a crayon in her windpipe. and they didn't have -- how in the world they did it, but they did not have a pediatric broncoscope. they went down with an adult broncoscope. broke the crayon, dropped it into her lungs. she got pneumonia. for about six days she was touch and go. and as barbara and i were sitting, waiting for whatever was going to happen, we just said, if we ever are in a position to help others, we want it to be children. and then 15 years ago, the honda tournament moved up from fort lauderdale to the palm beach area. a fellow named fred millsaps came to me, he ran charities, and he said, jack, what do you think of this area for children's charities? i looked at barbara and said, do you want to go for it? and she said, go for it. so we started our foundation.
we have been the main beneficiary, honda, several other events and so forth, and we haven't really done anything large. but we have raised a little over $100 million in the last 15 years. david: that is pretty impressive. jack: which is pretty good. [applause] david: the miami city children's hospital has been renamed in your honor. jack: miami was miami children's, and we made an association with miami children's. after a couple years, they said, you know, we would like to be a global hospital. so we would like to use the nicklaus name. and it's fantastic. to see what has happened with these kids, i want to tell you one thing, it is far more important than a four-foot putt. and i enjoy it a lot more. david: you enjoy it -- in other words, the satisfaction of winning the masters. jack: it's fantastic. david: but the satisfaction of saving a child's life is -- jack: it's unbelievable. david: it's been a great life and a great inspiration for so
david: over the last 30 years, i have seen a lot of crises and managed some of them myself. but nothing i've ever seen before is like the crisis we now have. it is a health crisis, an energy crisis, a financial crisis. the combination of all of those has made the job of being a ceo extraordinarily difficult. i want to talk to ceos and see how they are living through this crisis. i want to see how they are dealing with their customers. how they are dealing with their employees? how they are dealing with the government? how are they going to rise to the occasion? what is going to make these ceos great? that is what i want to know. this is "leadership live." today, we are very fortunate to