Hayes, meanwhile, began hearing about “that Nicklaus kid” and his prodigious golf talents; in fact, Hayes lived less than two blocks from Charlie Nicklaus’ pharmacy, and eventually befriended the owner and his family.
One day, Charlie Nicklaus asked Hayes which sport his son should focus on.
“I’ve seen him play football and I’ve seen him play golf,” Hayes replied. “Keep him away from my game.”
He didn’t mean it as a rebuke of Nicklaus’ football ability. Hayes saw what others in the Columbus area were figuring out — Jack Nicklaus had a special gift for playing golf.
Hayes, who won five national championships at Ohio State, became an enthusiastic fan of Jack’s. Hayes followed Jack at the 1959 U.S. Amateur at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and phoned in reports back home to the local Columbus newspapers. He also attended a handful of U.S. Opens early in Jack’s career.
Those days, Jack was emerging as a rival to the popular Arnold Palmer, and the gallery treated him rudely — especially at the 1962 U.S. Open in Palmer’s backyard at Oakmont. Hayes, so incensed by the crowd’s reaction, had to be restrained from going after one fan. The guy who restrained him was Charlie Nicklaus.
“If Woody liked you and supported you, you’d better not be saying something against who he’s supporting,” Jack said. “That was Woody. He was something else.”