Today, the Golden Bear turns 70.
Living in Jupiter, FL I see Jack Nicklaus a few times a year at his grandkids sporting events. I have boys who are the same age as Steve's kids. Sometimes I see Jack and Barbara at a Jupiter Mustangs football game, other times it's in the crowded Jupiter Community Center gym for a basketball game.
But here's the thing, even as he gets older (and yes, he is starting to look his age) he will always be a hero to me. This man did amazing things on the golf course and he's always been a true ambassador for the game.
It seems like just yesterday I was watching Nicklaus win his final Masters. So hard to believe that it was almost 24 years ago.
With that, I'll leave you with 18 interesting facts about Jack Nicklaus from this article courtesy of a Daytona Beach newspaper:
1. When Jack was growing up in Columbus, Ohio, he excelled at a variety of sports, and if not for an astounding golf skill that landed him a scholarship at Ohio State, he likely would've played college basketball.
2. Jack's father, Charlie, played football at Ohio State. Charlie became a pharmacist after graduation but continued in sports, playing semi-pro football and winning local tennis championships. Charlie also became close friends with legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes, who, upon watching Jack play golf, convinced Charlie to keep the boy far away from a football field.
3. Jack's grandson, Nick O'Leary, just completed his junior season at Palm Beach Dwyer High School. He's considered Florida's top tight-end prospect for the class of 2011. Jack's son, Steve, played football at Florida State in the early '80s.
4. Jack said he reported to Ohio State in 1958 at 175 pounds, but fraternity fun added nearly 50 pounds in his first semester. "I tried to drink all the beer in Columbus, then I found out they just kept making more," he once told Golf Digest magazine.
5. In 1978, Jack, an avid fisherman inshore and off, caught a 1,358-pound black marlin off the coast of Australia. Later that week, he won the Australian Open by six shots.
6. During the 1970s, when Jack was in his 30s, he won eight of his 18 professional major titles. In 40 majors played during the decade, he finished outside the top 10 just five times (never worse than fifth in the British Opens of the '70s).
7. When Jack turned 50 in 1990, he suggested he wouldn't play many Senior Tour events. For each week he stayed away, Lee Trevino sent Jack's wife Barbara a bouquet of flowers.
8. Trevino's desire to keep Jack away was well founded. In the first eight Senior Tour majors Jack played, in 1990-91, he won five of them. Overall, he won eight Senior majors. Throw in his two U.S. Amateurs, and that's 28 total majors.
9. An Australian golf writer named Don Lawrence first referred to Nicklaus as the "Golden Bear" in a 1963 article. Jack certainly liked that better than the "Fat Jack" label many put on him -- he was also self-conscious about his high-pitched voice, so he liked the manly imagery. It also fit because in high school Jack played for the Upper Arlington Golden Bears.
10. Charlie Nicklaus died of pancreatic cancer in 1970. Near the end, while being wheeled into the operating room on a gurney, Charlie looked at Jack and said, "Don't think it ain't been charming." Thirty-five years later, after Jack completed his final round at the Masters Tournament, he repeated that line to his son and caddy, Jackie.
11. Charlie Nicklaus once followed Bobby Jones during one of Jones' major championships, and had hoped Jack would follow in Jones' footsteps as a career amateur. Jack had planned to do that, and figured he'd follow Charlie's career path as a pharmacist, but by age 20 it became obvious there'd be more competition (and money) in the pro ranks.
12. If Ben Hogan's book, "Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf," is considered the bible of golf instruction, Jack's "Golf My Way" is probably a close second. The 1974 book is still selling (well over 2 million copies), and many modern stars -- including Ernie Els and Greg Norman -- credit the book for building their games as youngsters.
13. During halftime of the Ohio State-Minnesota football game in 2006, Jack became just the fifth non-band member ever to "Dot the I" for the Buckeye band.
14. Jack, a father of five, was always a regular at his kids' sporting events, and does the same now with the grandkids. During his prime golf years, he made a point of never playing more than two tournaments in a row in order to be home as often as possible.
15. Jack and Barbara built a home near their native Columbus in 1964. During construction, they spent the winter in South Florida. Jack's love for warm-weather activities (mostly tennis and fishing) won out, and by 1970, they moved to North Palm Beach, into a home where they still live.
16. Due to contractual obligations, Jack played MacGregor golf balls during his professional career. The balls were considered to be very weak, especially when compared to Titleist balls. "It shows how good he really was," said former USGA technical director Frank Thomas.
17. The most famous quote about Jack's game came at the 1965 Masters, where Bobby Jones said, "Nicklaus played a game with which I'm not familiar." But Tom Weiskopf may have best summed up Jack's competitive nature: "Jack knew he was going to beat you. You knew Jack was going to beat you. And Jack knew that you knew that he was going to beat you."
18. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus are celebrating Jack's 70th birthday on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. After a three-day fishing vacation, Jack will return to work with his course-design company.
P.S. Happy Birthday Mr. Nicklaus.... When can I play on the beautiful Bears Club you built near my house? :)