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Volume 20 No. 46
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USGA brings aboard Greenburg for its first film production

The U.S. Golf Association has teamed with former HBO Sports boss Ross Greenburg for its first film production, a one-hour documentary on Jack Nicklaus’ first U.S. Open victory 50 years ago.

“1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major,” will air June 17 on NBC prior to the broadcast of the U.S. Open’s final round from Olympic Club. The film tells the story of Nicklaus’ win over Arnold Palmer.

The USGA long has been in the content business as a publisher of books and journals, but this is the association’s first attempt to produce a documentary.

“Core to our mission is to preserve and celebrate the history of golf,” said Sarah Hirshland, the USGA’s senior managing director of business affairs. “We have tremendous assets available to us through our archives and they provide a great opportunity to build and create content that brings these stories to life.”

The Royal Bank of Scotland, a USGA corporate partner from 2008-11 and a longtime Nicklaus sponsor, jumped onboard

The documentary will focus on Nicklaus’ victory at the 1962 U.S. Open, where he beat Palmer.
Photo by: USGA (2)
to fund the documentary. Nicklaus, in fact, conducts interviews during the film with an RBS logo on his collar. The golfing great has endorsed RBS since 2003.

Hirshland said the USGA began discussions with Greenburg about the project after the USGA Museum brought up the anniversary of Nicklaus’ 1962 championship. The USGA calls its museum the first major sports museum in the country, dating to 1935. Its collection of footage, artifacts and other elements of the game has sometimes been loaned to other film projects, but until now has gone untapped for a USGA production.

“I feel like we’re giving birth to a whole new area for the USGA,” Greenburg said. “To me, this is a great way to lift the brand for the USGA and the U.S. Open. There are so many great stars and great moments, and starting out with 1962 makes so much sense because you’re talking about Nicklaus and Palmer, at a time when television coverage was just taking off.”

Greenburg, who left HBO in July and formed his own production company that works with NBC, the NHL and other properties, came onboard late last year.

Footage from 1962 is interspersed with current-day interviews of Nicklaus and Palmer to create the documentary. The USGA also is arranging for Palmer and Nicklaus to meet on May 17 at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, site of their 1962 showdown. Video from that meeting will be used in the film that runs on June 17.

Hirshland said the USGA is purposely limiting the commercial interruptions on NBC. RBS, as the presenting sponsor, will have ad units, and USGA corporate partners IBM, Lexus, Rolex and American Express could have an advertising presence, as well.

The USGA will stage a private screening for the film in San Francisco on June 13, the night before the U.S. Open starts.