June 03, 2021

Game Changing Moments – the first paycheck

At the start of the 1962 PGA TOUR season, Jack Nicklaus was no stranger to professional tournament golf. Prior to the ‘62 season, Nicklaus had teed it up in 19 events over the previous five seasons. The Los Angeles Open in early January was his first start of the new campaign. But something was different about this start in ’62. For the first time in his career, Nicklaus was playing as a professional, having relinquished his amateur status in late 1961.

The 1962 LA Open was record-setting. Held at Rancho Park Golf Course for the seventh consecutive year, the tournament would become a runaway victory for Phil Rodgers. With a nine-shot victory over the field, Rodgers still holds the record for largest margin of victory in tournament history.

The tournament would also be record-setting for Nicklaus. Finishing tied for 50th, Nicklaus would earn his first professional paycheck in golf. Victories would soon follow for the Golden Bear. Just months later at the 1962 U.S. Open, Nicklaus would best Arnold Palmer by three strokes in a playoff, earning his first career TOUR and major victory.

During his career, Nicklaus would play 12 times in the Los Angeles Open. His best finish came in 1978 when he earned a runner-up finish, two strokes behind Gil Morgan. In total, Nicklaus made the cut in 11 of his 12 appearances in LA, missing the cut in 1994, his final time playing the tournament.

The Genesis Invitational continues a longstanding tradition of professional golf in Los Angeles. Debuting in 1926 at Los Angeles Country Club as the Los Angeles Open, the tournament was staged at various courses throughout the Los Angeles area before permanently settling at The Riviera Country Club in 1973. The tournament and Riviera have seen many major moments in golf history over the years. In a new series, we look back at Game Changing Moments in the event’s history.