"He enjoys it. I mean the whole thing," said Barbara. "The fans, the swooning galleries. I can't blame him." A gallery regular herself, she has not noticed that the girls in Jack's following have become any more attentive. "But there are certainly more of them," she said, wrinkling her nose. "He is incorrigible now," she said. "He's after everybody about their weight. There's nothing worse than a reformed slob." She slid the aluminum pan into the oven, twisting the dials. "Gary, if you don't mind."
Gary Nicklaus, age four, had clambered up on a kitchen stool and was skimming a batter of oatmeal cookies with his right forefinger. He was unclothed except for a red bathing suit which was ventilated rather sensationally in the seat by wear and tear.
"They are spoiled," said Barbara, sweeping him gently off the stool and, with one expert motion, halfway out the door. "Jack spoils them rotten. He says, 'What do you want me to do, whack them as soon as I walk in the door?' He's right. It's very hard coming home and having things dropped in your lap. Like s-p-a-n-k-i-n-g-s. We made a pact when Jack turned pro. He would never be away longer than two weeks. He broke it once, in South Africa. He stayed 2� weeks. Of course, I was with him."
They had met, Barbara Bash and Jack Nicklaus, as freshmen at Ohio State when he was majoring in pre-pharmacy and she in pre-nursing. Waistline aside, she said, the remarkable thing about Jack in the years since has been his "consistency. He doesn't change."
Nicklaus is a man low on pretentions. An avowed, if virtually unnoticed, fan of the Miami Dolphins, he motors down on Sundays in a station wagon loaded with his family and a neighbor's. They take their seats up over the Orange Bowl's east goal line. "It would not enter his mind," says a Miami friend, "to use his influence to get better seats."
He is a man so consistently loyal he has had only one professional teacher all his golfing life ( Jack Grout); a man so susceptible to loyalty that he has made permanent employees of two of his caddies, one of whom twice failed to show up for the opening day of a tournament (and wherever he was, he had Jack's clubs); a man so sensitive to others' feelings that he once rushed out to the parking lot in the middle of a party he was throwing to find out why two friends were leaving early.
Barbara Nicklaus gathered up glasses and a pitcher of orange juice and headed for the court. Play was over. Jack had a towel over his head. He announced that he was "now ready for Francoise Durr." The match had gone to sudden death, but he and his partner had won. "Good thing, too," said Jack to his partner, "or these guys would never let me live it down." He went inside to shower. Barbara watched him go.
"I think he's as happy now as he's ever been," she said. He had had his greatest season, he was content in his businesses. They occupied his talents. "For a while," she said, "he was so down. Everybody was saying, 'What's wrong with Nicklaus?' I remember after the Masters a couple years ago, how bad his nerves were. He'd worked hard to get ready and then played poorly. He was really fed up.
"We went to the Bahamas to fish and he said, 'That's it, I'm not playing anymore until the Open.' He was going to pass up the Tournament of Champions. 'No you're not,' I said. 'That's all you need, for everybody to call you a quitter.' I scheduled his flight that afternoon. 'Taking over, eh?' he said. I guess I'd never done that before.
"But I really think the turning point was when his father died [three years ago]. I know it sounds awful, but it really turned Jack around. I don't mean he didn't have a wonderful relationship with his father. He did. Everybody loved Charlie, and he and Jack were very close. Jack phoned him day and night, on everything. Mark made the other decisions. Things were all laid out. It was almost too easy." She hesitated, remembering. "Then, boom. Charlie was dead. Jack had to grow up."