Hope’s example for Jack: Never a cross word
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.
In 1986, Jack Nicklaus watches his shot go for a birdie on the 17th hole at the Masters in Augusta, Ga.