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Jack Nicklaus pays tribute to Kerry Packer

Jack Nicklaus, who counted Kerry Packer among his best friends, today paid tribute to the man who asked him to re-design the Australian golf course in Sydney.

Nicklaus, winner of 18 Major golf tournaments, said Packer, who died this week aged 68, was "a tough guy with a big heart" who would be missed by he and his wife Barbara.

Known as the Golden Bear, Nicklaus said he first met Packer at a cocktail party when he played the Australian Open in the early 1970s.

"Kerry and I fast became friends and remained close ever since," Nicklaus said in a statement.

"Kerry later asked me to redo the Australian Golf Club, and when that opened in 1977, it became my first work in Australia.

"Our friendship continued to grow, and Kerry became a . . . founding member at The Bear's Club, my home club in Jupiter, Florida."

Nicklaus said Packer had become a friend for life.

"Kerry was just one of the real great friends - best friends - I have ever had," he said.

"One thing you could say about Kerry was that if he was your friend, he was truly your friend.

"He would do anything in the world for you and, in turn, you wanted to do anything for him.

"When Kerry would come to Florida, we would always make a point to get together, and when I would go to Australia, I always made certain to see him.

"Everything I ever involved myself in, if I needed Kerry's support, he was there for me. If you wanted or needed something, you could call Packer."

Nicklaus recalled a time when he was in Melbourne about four years ago to open the Heritage Golf Course when he got a phone call from his friend.

"Kerry called me and told me he had 90 days to live," he said.

"I called him six months later and said: 'Hey old man, I haven't read your obit yet.'

"He said: 'They haven't gotten me yet.'

"He was a tough man, a tough business man. But he was a tough guy with a big heart.

"That, I will always remember about Kerry."

December 28, 2005

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