PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida – BallenIsles Country Club commemorated the 50th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ victory at the 1971 PGA Championship held at BallenIsles (then known as PGA National) on Sunday, February 28th.
Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were in attendance at a ceremony held near the 18th green of BallenIsles’ East Course, the site of Jack’s win. Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America spoke about the anniversary, while BallenIsles’ General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Ryan Walls and Club President Michael Muntner awarded Nicklaus with a commemorative plaque. In addition, the club presented Barbara with a birthday cake on her birthday, kids from the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospital wished her a happy birthday via a pre-produced video, and members of The First Tee of the Palm Beaches sang to her (in-person) at the celebration.
“You come back and say ‘wow, I’ve had a lot of fond memories here’,” said Nicklaus. “Thank you very, very much for honoring me. It’s always a pleasure to come back to a place that you’ve enjoyed and had success at.”
“One of the most unique things that happened on February 28th, 1971, I called it a unique double,” added Nicklaus. “Not only did I win the major championship, but it was my wife’s birthday, just like today is.”
In February 1971, and in a rare departure from its typical late-summer spot on golf’s major championship calendar, the PGA Championship was played at BallenIsles Country Club (then named PGA National). Jack Nicklaus was crowned the champion with a dominating wire-to-wire win. The victory was the ninth of his record 18 professional major championships and an important piece of history for the Club and Palm Beach County. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus have called the Palm Beaches home for more than 55 years.
“We remember this important date in history, 50 years to the day that Mr. Nicklaus parred out on 18 to win the 71 PGA Championship,” said Walls. “We couldn’t be more proud to have him with us today. On behalf of the BallenIsles membership, we thank Jack and Barbara for being champions of our community.”
During the ceremony, Walls and Nicklaus also announced a multi-year plan for Nicklaus Design to renovate BallenIsles Country Club’s East Course. More information will be announced at a later date regarding the project.
In addition to the commemorative ceremony and plaque presentation, a number of historical pieces were on display for attendees to see, including the PGA Championship Wanamaker Trophy; the 53rd PGA Championship Roster with Starting Times; a 53rd PGA Championship Program; a 53rd PGA Championship Tournament Ticket; a Jack Nicklaus Sports Illustrated Cover; and a 1971 Jim Beam Decanter & Rocks Glasses.
In 1963 legendary Florida developer John D. MacArthur and the PGA of America teamed up with golf course architects Dick Wilson and Joe Lee to design a championship-caliber golf facility. Over the next ten years, BallenIsles, then called PGA National Golf Club, hosted numerous major tournaments like the PGA Championship and PGA Seniors Championship and was home for the Professional Golfers’ Association of America. The Club was also the host site for the original PGA TOUR Qualifying School and held the inaugural PGA Merchandise Show. When the MacArthur/PGA of America agreement expired in 1973, the Club was renamed the JDM Country Club for John D. MacArthur. For the next 15 years, the prestigious local country club hosted many celebrities and professional golfers and staged many events on the three golf courses on the property. In 1988, the three golf courses and surrounding property were sold by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and renamed BallenIsles Country Club.
Since the early 2000s, BallenIsles Country Club has been consistently ranked as one of the Top 100 Clubs in America. BallenIsles is managed by Troon Prive’, the private club operating division of Troon.
A $35 million clubhouse renovation was completed in November 2018, featuring 115,000 square feet of luxurious space; three championship courses with 54 holes of golf; a world-class 23-court tennis complex including an exhibition tennis court and pickleball courts; and a state-of-the-art Sports Complex with a full-service Cosmo & Company salon and spa, fitness center, Pilates & spin studios and resort-style swimming pool.