Hope’s ex­am­ple for Jack: Never a cross word

The State (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

Jack Nick­laus pulled into cir­cle drive at The Break­ers and couldn’t make it 25 feet to the door with­out be­ing stopped for a hand­shake, a greet­ing, a photo. It was like that for the next three hours and Nick­laus didn’t mind.

Still with him was an ex­am­ple set for him more a half-cen­tury ago that has served Nick­laus well.

The oc­ca­sion on this evening, on Nov. 14, was the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety’s “19th Hole Club,” which was cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary. Nick­laus took part in the first one with Bob Hope, Perry Como and Julius Boros. He has made more than a dozen other ap­pear­ances for the Palm Beach group over the years.

His work with Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety be­gan a few years ear­lier in Colum­bus, Ohio, when Nick­laus played an ex­hi­bi­tion with Hope, James Gar­ner and Scioto Coun­try Club head pro Walker In­man. The strongest me­mory is what hap­pened that night.

Nick­laus in­vited them over for din­ner. His wife, Bar­bara, was in the fi­nal weeks of preg­nancy with their third child.

She asked Nick­laus if he would start the grill. In a minute, he told her, af­ter they played some pool. Then, she asked if would pre­pare the steaks. What about the grill? She had done that her­self. Af­ter 15 min­utes later, she called back down and told him din­ner was ready. She had grilled the steaks.

They sat down to eat about 9 p.m. and his wife ex­cused her­self. Hope and Gar­ner were telling so many sto­ries that Nick­laus lost track of time, lost track of his wife and fi­nally went to check on her. He found her in their bed­room with her bags packed.

“She said, ‘I don’t want you to leave your friends. I called the doc­tor. I called a taxi. I need to go to the hos­pi­tal,’ ” Nick­laus said. “I walked back out and said, ‘Guys, I’ve got to take Bar­bara to the hos­pi­tal.’ You’ve never seen a room clear out so fast.”

Nan, their only daugh­ter, was born two hours later.

Nick­laus loves telling that story. This time, though, there was a postscript.

AP file photo

In 1986, Jack Nick­laus watches his shot go for a birdie on the 17th hole at the Masters in Au­gusta, Ga.

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