For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, this is the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ victory in the 1986 Masters. The 46-year-old Golden Bear’s triumph was one of the seminal moments in American sports – one of those “I remember where I was when’’ moments.
Clay Long certainly remembers where he was that Sunday afternoon – sitting in front of his TV. Actually he was jumping up and down watching Nicklaus not only win, but win with the Response putter he designed a year before.
These days Long is busy making “the best putters you’ve never heard of,’’ at his shop in Carlsbad, Calif., (www.rollyourball.com). If you are any sort of a golf historian, you’ve probably heard of Long’s Response ZT putter – the oversized (for the time) aluminum putter that won the ’86 Masters.
One of the most famous photographs in sports history shows Nicklaus raising the Response putter above his head after a putt on the 17th hole of the final round. But Nicklaus very nearly didn’t put the putter in play at Augusta National 25 years ago.
“I had two or three of them sitting in my office (at MacGregor Golf) and he picked one up and said, ‘Is this a joke?’’’ Long said. “But a couple weeks later he called me and said, ‘This giant putter isn’t too bad.’’’
In the fall of 1985, MacGregor Golf made four different models of the Response putter to sell in the 1986 product line.
“Nobody ever had any thought of Jack actually using it’’ prior to the Masters, Long said. “He had that George Lowe Wizard 600 he had used forever.’’
But Nicklaus did put it in play and MacGregor Golf went on to sell 350,000 Response putters over the next two-and-half years.
Nicklaus Golf Equipment Company manufactured 1,000 limited edition replica Response ZT putters to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the victory.
Here’s a buying tip: If you find a Response ZT putter with Long’s signature on it, buy it. Only 800 of those were ever made.