Going all in

Jack sold insurance — until he made golf his career

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Going all in

Jack sold insurance — until he made golf his career

The family business were the pharmacies owned by his dad. So it’s no surprise that Jack Nicklaus decided to major in pre-pharmacy when he became a student at Ohio State.

But as Jack’s golf game developed, it became apparent the sport would be an integral part of his future. He would need to devote more attention to it — longer practices, more travel. Working full-time at the drugstore was no longer an option.

He remained intent on keeping his amateur status, so Jack switched his major and started down a path to sell insurance. It was something he could do part-time and make enough money to support the family that he and Barbara were starting.

Eventually, Nicklaus left college just a few hours short of earning his degree at Ohio State (the school did give him an honorary doctorate in 1972). As a 21-year-old insurance salesman, he made $12,000. He made another $12,000 working for a slacks company and playing golf with the manufacturer’s customers.

Considering his first house cost $22,000, it was more than enough to live on. But that’s not how he wanted to spend his life.

“I’d have done fine, but I would have been miserable,” Jack once wrote. “All I ever wanted to do was play competitive golf against the best players in the world.”

And so Jack Nicklaus turned pro. Nov. 8, 1961. The day before, he sent a letter to USGA Executive Director Joe Dey to tell him the news. “Writing this letter has not been a pleasant chore,” Nicklaus wrote.

Becoming a pro was not an easy decision for the man who idolized legendary amateur star Bobby Jones.

But it was the right one.