Golf: Smiling Jack

  • Share
  • Read Later

Popularity should be no problem when you're 25, personable, and a full-fledged millionaire. But it has been for Jack Nicklaus, who has never attracted the enthusiastic throngs who root for his rivals. "I don't know why," he puzzles. "Maybe people resented my coming up so young and winning so fast."

Now Jack figures he's got the problem licked. He's keeping himself at a practically svelte 208 Ibs. nowadays, and hardly anybody calls him "Baby Beef" any more. He has even learned to smile — which, in Jack's case, is not as easy as it sounds. "For some reason," he explains, "it's hard to make a big smile on my face. Other people just move their lips and they've got the nicest, biggest smile. I have to work at it."

The Power of Peale. Still, going into last week's Masters Tournament at Augusta, Ga., golfs No. 1 money winner ($113,284 in 1964) was in anything but a jovial mood: he had not won a tournament in six months, and his official earnings this year totaled a piddling $14,400 — hardly enough to support the new blue and white Aero Commander he flies around the circuit.

He was worried about his wife, who's expecting their third child, and bothered by his back, which was aching so badly that he wore a special orthopedic lift in one shoe (his right leg is 1 in. shorter than the left). Nicklaus, however, was the 4-1 betting favorite over the likes of four-time Champion Arnold Palmer (6-1) and South Africa's Gary Player (8-1), who had worked himself into a fine frenzy for the Masters by lifting weights, eating wheat germ, and boning up on Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking. Pealed Player: "I'm playing so well I can't believe it."

So he was. So was Palmer. And so was Nicklaus. Pro golf's Big Three already had a few things in common: a TV show (Big Three Golf) and the same attorney, business manager and agent (who has a lot in common, too, since he's all the same person). After two days at the Masters, they shared something else: the lead, at six under par. "Disgusting!" said one pro. "Show-offs!" huffed another. They hadn't seen anything yet. Warming up for the third round, Nicklaus belted six drives the length (280 yds.) of the practice tee, sending each soaring over a clump of pine trees onto a six-lane highway beyond. He held a brief courtesy conference with some golf-equipment sales representatives. Then he started for the first tee. "Sorry, fellows," he said, "it's time for me to go to work."

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2