The interior of the house—6,000 square feet and six bedrooms, be it ever so humble—reflects Barbara Nicklaus' good taste, and features, among other things, a lighted trophy case, a pool room, a 124-pound mounted tarpon, a number of original drawings and oil paintings and, in a room to itself, a television playback-recorder on which Jack can watch himself win the U.S. Open several times a day. He uses it to hunt the flaws in his game. "That's it!" he has been heard to yell of an afternoon, running to get his nine-iron.
The oversized garage accommodates a full supply of Pontiacs and two upright refrigerators (at a constant 58�) filled with the wine Jack sends home by the case. Though never more than a minor-league drinker, he has taken up wine collecting with typical one-on-one zeal.
"My husband, the sex symbol," said Barbara, looking out. Nicklaus, in a sky-blue knit tennis shirt and white shorts, was bearing down on his tennis foes. There was no doubting the transformation, she said.
"I don't know how well you know Jack," she continued, "but when he makes up his mind to do something, he does it. Stubborn. Well, during the Ryder Cup matches in 1969 he felt tired playing golf for the first time in his life. So on the plane coming home he announced he was going to lose 20 pounds. He called Hart's. He told them to send a man down in 2� weeks to measure him. He was going on a diet."
Hart Schaffner & Marx had no illusions about Nicklaus' figure when it signed him. For the Nicklaus ads, the company used to spend $2,000 to photograph him in the latest fashions, then another $1,200 to have Artist Frank Golden put him in marketable perspective. Jack-in-the-flesh ads were out.
Nicklaus takes a converted man's pleasure in telling of his overweight past. He keeps a framed picture in his office: a 1962 Fat Jack glaring at the camera, stubby arms down and angled away from his body, his pants glued to his legs like bark on a tree. The zipper is not quite up. His secretaries call the picture "Our Leader." For years Jack's shirts "went in about 60 directions, and my pants (mostly khaki) looked like something you'd see on a war refugee. I had one pair I thought were really super. Iridescent green. I won the U.S. Open in them in 1962. I thought they were lucky. I wore them two days in a row, 36 holes on Saturday and the 18-hole playoff on Sunday. I'm surprised somebody didn't complain."
Eventually, he said, after Gardner Dickinson told him he was a disgrace, he started buying $55 pants. "I still looked awful. It wasn't the clothes, it was me. I kept my hair short then, and my head came to kind of a point. I wore floppy hats. Later when I let my hair grow, the hat left a ridge around my head so I finally had to discard the hat. People discovered I had hair."
Anyway, said Barbara Nicklaus, Jack announced he was going on this diet. "Tuna fish, cottage cheese, no-cal milk shakes. Three weeks later he'd lost an inch in the waist and seven inches around the hips. Every pair of pants Hart's sent was too big."
From 210 pounds, Jack went to 190 and held between 190 and 185. Not only was the fuselage trimmer, but his face lost its yeasty look. Voil�. Hart's had a natural.
"The writers started calling long distance," Barbara said. "They wanted his diet." Asked why he hadn't slimmed down before, Jack said it never occurred to him, he assumed it was fate. His doctor was loath to tell him to diet for fear of messing up his game.