COLUMBUS, Ohio - When the name Jack Nicklaus is mentioned, most people at least know the name if not what he does for a living and why he's famous. For those people of questionable mental health who don't like golf or care about the game whatsoever, they won't get anything out of learning that Nicklaus won 20 majors or that he can hit a 1-iron better than anyone on the planet.
The best thing for these folks is to hear about Nicklaus' incredible will and work ethic. The fact of the matter is, if Nicklaus had chosen to sell balloons as a career, he would have become the best balloon salesman alive.
Thank God for us, Nicklaus chose golf as a profession and rewrote the record books. His dramatic victories and exceptional shotmaking inspired millions, but it has also been his success as a father and businessman that has garnered so much admiration from the masses.
Ohioans can take great pride in knowing that their state had a lot to do with who Nicklaus is today. The Golden Bear admits himself that a strong family upbringing in the Buckeye state, plus a quality education and athletic program at The Ohio State University, planted the buckeye, er, seed, for what was to come.
"My family life is very balanced, and I credit a lot of that to my parents, my upbringing, and them instilling into me good, solid Midwestern family values," Nicklaus says.
Whereas many Ohioans curse their native state's weather patterns and swear to migrate somewhere warmer some day, Nicklaus views the meteorological mess as a blessing to his career. Another tip of the hat to the Buckeye State.
"As it pertains directly to my golf career, I had a lot of other values and interests besides just focusing on the game of golf," he says. "I grew up in Ohio playing all sports, and I think that was extremely valuable in the long run. You could only play golf six months out of the year, so you were led to do other things or other sports, which was very important to me. Had I grown up in the South, I probably would have played a lot more golf and probably wouldn't have maintained the desire I had."
But even the snow didn't keep Nicklaus from enduring practice droughts for too long. There's the famous picture in his autobiography of him hitting balls from a cleared patch of snow-covered lawn with wife, Barbara, dutifully at his side. Also, a makeshift Quonset hut with a temperamental heater he used for practicing in inclement weather. That's the will and determination that led to 73 PGA Tour victories, including six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens, and two U.S. Amateurs.
Nicklaus made it look easy, but everyone knows how difficult a task it was to amass 20 major wins. As hard as it was, he's not obsessing over his trophy case and wishing ill will to a certain individual (could it be...Tiger Woods?) who has his record in the crosshairs. In fact, he hopes to be a witness to it.
"I believe someone will break my record, and I just hope I'm alive and able to be there to see it," Nicklaus says. "Tiger certainly is the best candidate right now to break the record. He's almost halfway there, and he's still young and healthy. I have always said that there are many factors involved in whether or not he will break my record, and two of those are health and his interest. We'll have to see how interested and motivated he remains.
"Although Tiger has won an incredible amount of money already in his career, one of the things that still impresses me about him is that he loves the game and he loves to win. I think he's in it for the trophies more than the purses," Nicklaus continues. "I also think it will be interesting to see how married life affects him. I think Tiger will actually benefit from being married, because he now has someone to play for. That always made a big difference for me. Having someone like Barbara to come home to and to play for was important for me. The balance in my life that family gave me was a key to my long-term success."
It doesn't look as though Nicklaus will be adding to his majors record anytime soon, although you never say never, as everyone learned in 1986 when he won the Masters at age 46. But his playing schedule these days is very limited. He says he's been contemplating his tournament schedule on a week-to-week basis depending on his play. He played two events in Hawaii early on, the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai and the Champions Skins Game. He played well in those two tournaments, so he decided to play the ACE Group Classic held at TwinEagles in Naples, Fla., a course he and son, Jack, co-designed.
"As for the rest of the year, I'll definitely play the Memorial Tournament, and then I will keep my options open on several tournaments in the months prior to Memorial and after it," Nicklaus says.
AirMax 360 driver, Nicklaus JNP forged irons, JN01 putter, Nicklaus prototype fairway woods (3 & 5), Nicklaus prototype sand wedge, Callaway Black balls. Nicklaus also carries three pennies in his pocket when playing golf, and also carries a buckeye in his bag for good luck. A quote from Nicklaus from Golf Digest on why he has a buckeye in his bag reads, "A buckeye (the Ohio State mascot) is a horse chestnut and is considered a good luck charm. My whole career, I've had at least one in my golf bag for luck. Someone will give me one, and I'll throw out the old one and put the new one in. Buckeyes are poisonous to humans. But they weren't poison to me."
March 1, 2004
Jason Stahl currently works for Medquest Communications in Cleveland, Ohio, as Editorial Manager. Prior to joining Medquest, he spent five years with Advanstar Communications as Managing Editor of Landscape Management, a trade magazine covering the professional landscaping business. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1989 and John Carroll University in 1993.
Two new books offer some profound insight into the business of golf, with an eye toward building courses and businesses that turn a profit by growing the game.
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