You know the drill, if they play golf, they should get a golf present.
But buying for Jack is especially difficult when he has achieved so much in the game. So up to last week there must have been a lot of head scratching for his five children and twenty-two grandchildren.
For my money, he is the greatest. Because he is complete, he has shown time and again that he is a fully rounded, classy individual on and off the course. He still holds the record of eighteen Majors, three more than you know who. He was the pioneer who broke the records and then set them and then kept on setting them. Before him Walter Hagen had won eleven and Bobby Jones nine. Imagine the drive and fortitude of determination needed to keep on going when you have obliterated the records of your heroes.
His competitive drive is one of the main characteristics which has led to him being on top of the pile. He has, it is generally regarded, married the greatest ever golf wife in Barbara. The support given from home helped him stay out and carry on competing. True, he didn’t have as many bad days as most, but a consummate competitor is never really happy. All of those second places must have burned and led to sub-par moods.
When he came onto the scene he wasn’t welcome; the crowds wished that the ‘fat boy’ from Columbus would hit it in the rough because he was challenging the crowned King of the game, Arnold Palmer. Nicklaus kept on beating Palmer and that wasn’t cool. Yet once the spectators realised that the only thing they had against the new kid on the block was that he was winning, they started to embrace him; the Americans have always loved a winner, eventually.
There is a documentary about the 1975 US Masters where Nicklaus was in contention against Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf. Weiskopf, also an Ohio State alumni and generally regarded as next generation’s talent bearer, and Johnny Miller (when he was hot he was white hot) came up against the Bear in full flow. Nicklaus was stood on the eighteenth fairway, after catching and overtaking the opposition, and said to his caddy, “This is fun.” He went onto win his fifth green jacket. Weiskopf only ever won one Major and Miller two. It is generally regarded that Weiskopf drove out of Magnolia Lane that evening a broken man, while Nicklaus collected his fifth Green Jacket. His sixth coming eleven years later at age forty-six.
It’s this competitive drive which he regarded as fun, feeling exhilarated by the pressure; where lesser players folded, he excelled. He never ever quit. Yet today, he has retired from the world of competitive golf and for the last twenty years become the ambassador and mentor for the game and to the next generation of respectful professionals. They all are nervous to hit a ball in front of him yet listen intently to his wisdom and advice, such is the revered respect they hold him in.
In researching this article, I came across a story where he was invited to open the Nicklaus Room at the USGA’s museum in 2015. His close family were given a tour of the museum where he paid homage to the Hogan room and the Bobby Jones room before seeing his own. Then on leaving he went into the Palmer room spent some time reminiscing then on leaving, under his breath, just audible and with a smile said, “My room is better than his.”