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Life On The Green: Jack Nicklaus, golf legends impart wealth of wisdom in Ann Liguori’s new book

Renowned broadcaster Ann Liguori sat down with 12 legends of the game to learn about what it takes to succeed both on and off the course.

If you are reading this, you are very likely a golfer. Perhaps you play sporadically, or maybe you play once a week or once a year.

Either way, all of us golfers have something in common. We all want to get better, improve our games, and shoot low scores.

One way to improve your game is to learn from the best, which Tom Watson shares with Ann Liguori in her book Life On The Green. In this book, 12 legends, including Watson, sit down with Liguori and provide her with the knowledge and insight that earned them mythical status in golf.

“They were all so gracious and willing to share their stories and talk with me,” Liguori said in an interview with Playing Through.

“Nowadays, athletes are very tough to connect with because they’re shielded by their agents, and they have to be very careful with social media and all the negativity out there. But the 12 legends I chose to focus on were gracious and generous with their time.”

Along with Watson, Liguori spoke with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Padraig Harrington, Annika Sorenstam, Dottie Pepper, Jan Stephenson, Amy Alcott, Bernhard Langer, Nancy Lopez, Renee Powell, and Ben Crenshaw.

Jack Nicklaus, The Players Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour via Getty Images
Jack Nicklaus looks at The Players Championship trophy during the 2024 tournament.

That list alone could comprise the World Golf Hall of Fame.

“A lot of these stories that they revealed shed some light on what motivates them so late in life,” Liguori said.

“Look at Gary Player, who is 88 years young, and he still plays golf and works out every day. He’s very conscientious about his diet and nutrition.”

Player, who became the first international golfer to win The Masters in 1961, won nine majors during his illustrious career. The South African is also one of five golfers to complete the career Grand Slam, along with Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, and Tiger Woods.

When you read Liguori’s chapter on Player, you learn much more about the man who holds more majors than any golfer not from the United States. You discover his difficult childhood, in which he used to cry himself to sleep at night because of his poverty. He also felt helpless growing up in a country mired by conflict through Apartheid. You also become sorrowful and empathetic when you learn he lost his mother to cancer when he was eight.

Those experiences gave Player a level of toughness that very few people have. He used that to develop an edge, a drive, and a willingness to succeed in golf because failure was not an option.

But Player opened up about his difficult childhood with Liguori because he has grown comfortable with her over the years. Liguori has covered golf for almost four decades.

Her incredible resume includes a stint at the Golf Channel, but her most impressive accomplishment may be owning, hosting, and producing “The Sports Innerview with Ann Liguori,” the longest-running program on cable television hosted by a woman. Liguori was also a pioneer at WFAN, the first 24-hour sports radio station launched in New York, where she held a sports talk show for more than 20 years. She continues to serve as the station’s golf correspondent and recently hosted her show live at Augusta National.

Ann Liguori Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage
Ann Liguori.

Over her career, she has not only interviewed golf legends but also Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Wilt Chamberlain, and Billy Jean King. This unbelievable list extends far beyond that.

“I think research is a huge part of preparation,” Liguori said when asked what makes a good interview.

“Dottie Pepper talks about preparation and how important it was in her golf career when she played and now in her broadcasting career with CBS. But for me, it’s really coming in prepared and knowing a lot about that person.

“Then you have to make them feel really comfortable when conversing with them so that they can say things that they might not have said before to any other reporter. I try to have a very comfortable and respectful conversation with everybody. But obviously, they know I’m not going to exploit them. I’m not going to take advantage of them.”

Her unique ability to make her subject comfortable has brought about much success, which explains why she unlocked the keys to golf’s greats.

Within Life On The Green, Liguori invites Padraig Harrington, the youngest of five children, to reminisce on his childhood while sharing his thoughts on LIV Golf. Harrington also shares a hilarious story about the only time he lost his temper—it surely will give you a hearty Irish laugh.

She also asked Renee Powell to shed light on her own journey and discuss the history of race in a sport that has historically been more exclusive than not.

Furthermore, Ligouri had the great Jan Stephenson open up about her role promoting the LPGA throughout the 1980s, in which she used her good looks to draw attention to the tour. But as you learn in Liguori’s book, Stephenson was more than a “sex symbol.”

LPGA Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images
Jan Stephenson at the Nabisco Dinah Shore in 1985.

You discover how driven she was and how her father helped her become the fierce competitor that she is. Even on rainy and windy days, under her father’s tutelage, Stephenson would practice in the hopes of winning the U.S. Open someday. She eventually did so in 1983.

The takeaways you will have from Liguori’s book are plentiful, with another being how the great Jack Nicklaus values family more than anything. The 18-time major champion was never away from home for more than two weeks and would often fly home from a golf tournament to attend one of his child’s sporting events. He would return to the tournament the following morning.

That helps explain why Nicklaus’ favorite Masters memory came in 2018, more than three decades after he won his sixth Green Jacket. That year, Nicklaus’ grandson Gary Jr. sank a hole-in-one during the Par-3 Contest, which elicited a massive celebration from all involved.

No wonder why Jim Nantz, renowned CBS broadcaster, penned the forward, in which he said, “This is storytelling at its best—unfiltered and fresh. [The book] is told by an exquisite interviewer, who, in concert with our heroes, will entertain you page after page.”

Not only will you be entertained, but you will learn more than you could ever imagine—not just about golf, but about life too.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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