Todd Richards has stood in the middle of the 14th fairway at Muirfield Village and stared down one of the course’s most daunting shots.
Brandon Dubinsky has spent many summer mornings on the 12th tee, trying to summon the confidence to hit a quality shot on the course’s most picturesque hole.
Both reflect on those moments when walking the grounds during Memorial Tournament week, a week that has become appointment “in-town” time since each arrived in Columbus three-plus years ago.
Richards, who grew up in Crystal, Minn., watched Memorial founder/host, Ohio State alum and arguably the greatest player of all time Jack Nicklaus win tournament after tournament, dominating the sport in a run of excellence challenged only by Tiger Woods after him.
For him, there’s added significance to the Memorial Tournament, which began its 40th playing this week at Muirfield Village in Dublin.
“The Memorial Tournament, the first thing you think of, is Jack Nicklaus and him being the founder of the event,” Richards said. “It’s a great golf course, a great venue and a great tournament, but the real allure for me is his name associated with it. I grew up watching Jack and a lot of my golf memories as a kid involve him. I have a great passion for the game, and there are a few guys you enjoyed watching every week on TV, and Jack was the guy for me.
“Saying that I’m from Columbus and he’s from Columbus is enough for me. I love playing golf and watching golf, but there’s nothing like going there – especially on a beautiful day. To go out and experience that, and everything that comes with it, makes it very special.”
Dubinsky is a member at Muirfield Village and has played countless rounds on Nicklaus’ championship design, one that has stood up over 40 years and still provides the PGA Tour’s best players a stern test every year.
Though it wasn’t until Dubinsky and his wife, Brenna, were at the Columbus Zoo’s ‘Zoofari’ event a couple of years ago, that he finally crossed paths with the Golden Bear. Dubinsky knew Nicklaus was around, but didn’t want to stroll up out of nowhere and start a conversation – but by happen chance, he turned around at one point during the evening and saw Brenna talking to Nicklaus’ wife, Barbara.
“I remember telling him that I was a member at his course, which was really cool, and we just talked about golf for a little bit,” Dubinsky said. “That was a neat experience to meet a legend like him, and Jack’s the guy you think of whenever you watch this tournament.”
Prior to the 2013-14 Blue Jackets season getting underway, Muirfield Village hosted the Presidents Cup, a biannual international golf competition between the United States and International teams. The Blue Jackets’ home opener took place on the opening day of Presidents Cup competition, and Nicklaus dropped the ceremonial first puck before the Jackets took on the Calgary Flames.
Dubinsky was the Blue Jackets’ representative in that ceremonial face-off, and Nicklaus signed a framed copy for him and added a personal note.
“That’s going up on the wall in the Dubinskys’ new house, for sure,” Dubinsky said.
It should be no surprise that the Dubinskys, who have lived downtown for the past three years, are soon moving to Muirfield Village.
“The week of the tournament is obviously a great thing for the city, but also for the golfers, because when you talk about the prestige of the Memorial Tournament, everyone knows this is Jack Nicklaus’ tournament,” Dubinsky said. “That’s pretty special. They talk about how difficult the course is, how hard it is to win this tournament, and how much they enjoy coming to Columbus, Ohio.
“It says a lot about the golf course, and a lot about the city of Columbus and the city of Dublin and what kind of tournament they put on here.”
Chalk it up as another feather in the city’s sporting cap.
“This is one thing that puts Columbus on the map,” Richards said. “When I talk to my friends – and I just talked to a buddy the other day about golf – I tell them the Memorial is here this weekend, and then they’re watching it on TV. It’s another one of those things that makes Columbus great.”