Family's everything

Jack was determined to be as good a father as a golfer

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Family's everything

Jack was determined to be as good a father as a golfer

Jack Nicklaus was a perfect 5-for-5 when it came to the birth of his children. Each time one was born, he fainted. “He fainted for all of us,” says his second-oldest, Steve.

When the oldest, Jackie, was born in 1961, Jack had just returned from a tournament in Cincinnati. He was in the nursery and asked which baby was his. When the nurse pointed to the crib, Jack fell backwards onto the terrazzo floor.

“How in the world I didn’t crack my skull, I don’t know,” Jack recalls.

When Nan, the only daughter, was born, Jack was out for 15 minutes. “He was in the recovery room longer than I was,” his wife Barbara used to tease.

So expected was Jack’s fainting that Barbara made sure there were pillows on the floor whenever Jack first saw the newborn. But the fainting was worth it.

Family was the “crux of everything,” according to Nicklaus. Despite the travel demands as a pro golfer — and then as a business entrepreneur and golf course architect — Jack made it a point of never spending more than two weeks away from home. He has no doubt that his family led to his success.

“Because my family was more important than my golf game,” he says, “I became a better golfer.”

As the kids grew up, he attended as many of their activities as possible. Now that his kids are older — and have given Jack and Barbara 22 grandchildren — they can appreciate what it took for their dad to be there.

“He flew in between rounds of the Mexican Open for a high school football championship,” Barbara said. “I think our children at the time thought, ‘Well, that’s just what dads do.’

“Of course now that they’re married and have families of their own, they’ll say to me sometimes, ‘Wow, I had no idea what dad gave up to watch us.’ … It makes them even more proud of their dad.”