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