Nicklaus is strong. He is 5 feet 11 inches, and weighs anything from a
relatively svelte 195 to a round 210. It usually is the latter, since he likes
to quench his thirst between nines with three bottles of chocolate milk and
isn't above having a side dish of French fries with a spaghetti dinner. He is
all muscle. His thighs look as big as his waist, his arms as big as his thighs
and his neck as big as them both. The very sight of him is enough to set
football coaches drooling, though he has refused to play that game since junior
high school because the season conflicts with golf.
hits a drive he fairly explodes on the ball. He averages nearly 300 yards with
towering shots that soar high and far like Babe Ruth home runs, then fall
gently to the fairway. Few professionals outdrive him.
His long wood
shots give him a special advantage in match play, putting pressure directly on
opponents by forcing them to hit their approach shots to the green first, and
from farther out than Nicklaus.
He has the good
sense not to over-swing, however. And against the very best amateurs he changes
his strategy, playing his woods shorter and safer. "Let's face it," he
says, "You can outdrive a fellow like Charlie Coe forever and it won't
bother him." Nicklaus beat Coe last year in the finals of the National
Compared to his
woods, Nicklaus hits his irons deceptively lightly. His swing is almost gentle,
with his tremendous arm strength making up for the lack of initial clubhead
speed. He keeps the club well under control, hitting the ball firmly, while
digging out distinctive shovel-sized divots.
long-hitting young golfers, Nicklaus plays a fine game around the green. His
chip shots are sound, and when he grasps his specially designed lightweight
Scottish putter and drops into his distinctive knock-kneed stance, he looks
like the firm, consistent putter he is. The only variation in his putting
stroke is a tendency to crouch lower and lower over a crucial putt.
Palmer, whom he resembles in many respects, Nicklaus is a bold, confident
player, willing to take risks but smart enough to take them only when he has
He learned much
about golf strategy while playing in 13 professional tournaments during the
past two years. "You find out how the professionals score," he says,
"not just how they hit the ball. For instance, I found that when I missed a
shot I often missed it into trouble. But when the pros miss one they can
usually recover without wasting a shot. I'm doing that now. My golf is much
better than it was last year."
upsetting as it must be to the 200 amateurs gathering at the St. Louis Country
Club next week for the National Amateur, is confirmed by Coe. "His game has
improved over last summer," he says, "and it was awfully good
then." This spring Bobby Jones said Nicklaus was showing "the finest
potential of any young player in years."
Amateur is a tough tournament. The winner must take eight straight matches, six
of them 18-hole affairs, where an unknown can have a sudden hot round and beat
anybody. But Nicklaus is playing very well right now, easily winning the
Colonial amateur just last week, and has an excellent chance of duplicating his
1959 National Amateur victory. If for no other reason, there is his