Nan Nicklaus, the middle child of the five Nicklaus children and the only girl, was not quite a year old when she became ill in 1966. She would start to choke, then be fine again, then choke again and be fine again. Barbara and Jack took her to a variety of doctors over a two-month period, but nobody could offer a solution.
Finally, Nan was taken to the local children’s hospital and given an X-ray. Doctors found a shadow near her lung — she had inadvertently swallowed a blue crayon. Using a adult bronchoscope, doctors tried to remove the crayon but bits of it fell into her lungs. Nan spent six days in intensive care and suffered pneumonia, while her parents could do nothing but worry about the fate of their young daughter.
Nan pulled through, and Jack and Barbara became eternally grateful to the doctors and nurses at the hospital. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
“We felt like the hospital and the doctors have saved her life,” Barbara said. “So we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘You know, if we’re ever in a position to help someone, we want it to be children.”
Jack first organized the Columbus Pro-Am to raise funds for the hospital. Then he and Barbara took it to the next level with the creation of the Memorial Tournament. The primary charity would be the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the very same hospital that saved Nan’s life so many years ago.
The tournament has given more than $27 million for the hospital and other charities in the Columbus area.
“When they started in 1976, there was only really one relationship they wanted to expand upon — and that was the one with the hospital,” said Memorial tournament director Dan Sullivan. “We’ve been able to live up to that expectation, that we have this relationship with volunteers that truly are dedicating their time, their energies and their insights to the tournament — ultimately for the benefit of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the kids that are being treated there.”