Nick Price – Justifiably One of Golf’s Most Popular Players

Ask every competitor who is the nicest, most congenial and friendly player on the PGA Tour. Chances are the name of Nick Price will be on the tips of the vast majority of wagging tongues. There are good reasons.

Everyone simply loves Price, the native of Durban, South Africa, who has endeared himself to his peers, Tour staff, tournament directors, pro-am partners, volunteers, autograph seekers, clubhouse attendants and members of a sometimes cynical media.

Examples of Price’s random acts of kindness abound. Matter of fact, it would take a lot of ink to list them all. Price is a major supporter of the Harare Shelter for Destitutes in his native Zimbabwe, a program for 150 children who lost parents to AIDS, or whose parents are blind. He has also established “Hearts and Hope” in West Palm Beach, Fla., a program that helps children who have lost a parent.

One on-course anecdote underlines what Price is all about. As Price was making a triumphant walk toward the 18th green after securing the championship at the 1994 British Open at Turnberry, he noticed that his caddie, the late Jeff “Squeeky” Medlin, had dropped back to allow Price his moment in the Scottish sun. When Price saw this, he motioned for Medlin to join him.

“I said, ‘You – come up here,’ “ Price said. “He came running up and said, ‘No, Nick, I want you to go. You go and enjoy it.’ I said, ‘Squeek, you and I have done this together. You’re walking with me onto that 18th green, right next to me.’ “

Price and Medlin finished golf’s most prestigious stroll locked arm-in-arm, basking together in the thunderous ovation. “And that smile on his face, man,” Price recalled of his caddie and friend. “He was lit up.”

The anecdote underlines one of many similar reasons why he received the third Payne Stewart Award from the PGA Tour in 2002. Price got the award following Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in 2000, and Ben Crenshaw in 2001.

“Nick Price has earned this honor because of the way he has represented himself and the game throughout his career,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said at the awards ceremony. “He doesn’t just talk about integrity, sportsmanship and giving back to others less fortunate. He applies those values in his own life.”

Finchem was preaching to the PGA Tour choir. “I think the players recognize what a great guy he is,” Davis Love III said of Price. “People always ask who is the nicest guy on Tour and Nick Price’s name always comes up. He is a role model out here that a lot of players need to pay attention to.”

Nice-guy Price also happens to have crafted a Hall of Fame career. Blessed with one of the most fundamentally-sound golf swings in the game, Price burst onto the world’s golf stage at the 1982 British Open. He held a three-stroke lead with six holes left before faltering. Tom Watson beat him by one stroke. In 1983 he went wire-to-wire to defeat Jack Nicklaus by two strokes in the World Series of Golf.

But Price then struggled for almost a decade before being rewarded for his persistence and hard work. He scored a breakthrough victory at the 1992 PGA Championship and, through 1994, dominated international golf. In 1993, he won four PGA Tour events, including The Players Championship, and was named PGA Tour Player of the Year. Price then turned in one of golf’s great seasons in 1994, winning six times, including the British Open and PGA Championship, and was again named Player of the Year. He spent 43 weeks sitting atop the Official World Golf Rankings during this torrid stretch.

The United States Golf Association honored Price in 2005 with the Bob Jones Award. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003 and received the ASAP Award from the Golf Writers Association of America in 2002, several months before garnering the Stewart award for sharing Stewart’s respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game’s heritage of charitable support, and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his conduct.

Price competed against Stewart throughout most of his career. Price noted during the 2002 ceremony at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., that he was born one day before Stewart. Like Price, Stewart also won three majors, including the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, just four months before his private plane flew uncontrolled across the country and crashed into a South Dakota field. “He loved the limelight,” Price said of Stewart. “We miss him a lot. There’s a big hole in our Tour.”

This story originally appeared in the WorldGolf Wire.