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Ray Cave
September 12, 1960
Big Jack Nicklaus, who is good enough to beat most pros, may become a second Bobby Jones
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September 12, 1960

One Whale Of A Golfer

Big Jack Nicklaus, who is good enough to beat most pros, may become a second Bobby Jones

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His fraternity mates Call him Blob-o, his neighborhood friends call him Whaleman and his wife has even called him Fat Boy, but no matter what you care to call him the U.S. has never had an amateur golf champion with quite the combination of competitive intensity and easygoing charm of big Jack Nicklaus.

See him, as on this week's cover, his lips pursed tight in concentration and his massive forearms whipping a clubhead through a shot, and you can understand how he won 29 of 30 matches against the world's best amateurs in 1959 and almost won the 1960 National Open against the best professionals. Watch him play golf and you can well believe that he will succeed in his eventual goal: winning the U.S. and British Amateur and Open titles—becoming, in short, a second Bobby Jones.

Then see him on a Friday afternoon in the Heidelberg, a rathskeller near the Ohio State University campus, downing a Blatz beer with impressive gulps, clowning with his Phi Gamma Delta fraternity mates, and suddenly he is just another 20-year-old college junior from Columbus, Ohio who is more excited by the present than he is concerned with the future.

Jack Nicklaus (pronounced Nicklus) is a study in such contrasts. He displays a maturity in regard to his sport that many golfers never attain. "Golf," he says, and he means it, "is, above all, a game." Yet he also can be boyishly candid and exuberant. He was introduced to Vice-President Nixon recently at a large formal dinner. "Hey, Dad, come here," he shouted across the room to his father. "I want you to meet Dick Nixon."

He is so avid about golf that he played 18 holes on his wedding day, and he is so determined about it that he can say, "Hogan is the greatest hitter of the ball that ever played the game. But I should hit the ball as well as Hogan someday. Maybe better." And yet he can take the game so casually that he says, "I'd rather fish than play golf any day."

He can exhibit the gigantic lassitude of an elephant lolling in the sun. More than once he has almost slept past his tee-off time in tournaments. Yet he can be as tense as a stalking tiger. "I can't stand to lose any game, ever," he has said.

His friends say he is a practical realist. Yet Nicklaus is superstitious. He will play only with Titleist No. 5 golf balls. To get all the No. 5s he needs he has to order them direct from the factory.

Fury on a honeymoon

He is said to be nerveless. Leading the National Open on the 67th hole, he missed an 18-inch putt because of a ball mark on the green, yet seemed unruffled. But Barbara, his bride of a month, recalls his fury at missing a highway turnoff in Erie, Pa. on their honeymoon, and the wild 80-mph ride which followed. Here, perhaps, was one of the rare overt indications of the fires that burn in this placid-appearing golden bear of a fellow, a hint at one of the facets of the personality that makes him a supreme competitor.

But, generally, it is not the hidden personality of Jack Nicklaus that excites the imagination so much as the way he hits a golf ball.

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