He stood on the sidelines, for there were no bleachers, and moved up and down the field with the tide of play. Other fathers and mothers occasionally looked his way, as if to let him know they were delighted to have him drop by. Aloud, in that reedy, adolescent tenor that is startling when you first hear it, he made running comments on the game's progress. "Nice run, Jackie.... Attaboy, Stevie. Get your uniform dirty." He did not appear to mind when Jackie did not run to the right hole, or Stevie shied from a tackle.
Often he stops by for practice sessions as well as games at the private school they attend near his office in North Palm Beach, and though he will call out to them there, too, and wait around afterward to throw some passes, he never interferes. The coach, in turn, seemed altogether willing, even inclined, to single out the Nicklaus boys for criticism whenever they deserved it.
Jack pointed out that Stevie, unlike most of the tiny warriors, had no star-shaped decals on his helmet. The decals were given by the coach for exemplary play. He said Stevie was a good athlete but could be overbearing at times and "I don't think the coach wants him to get a big head." Jackie, he said, never tired of reminding Steve that his helmet was starless.
Jack said he was glad that the boys had a talent and took pleasure in athletics without being shoved. He said his father had introduced him to sports and had been interested in his performances. Once early in his golf career he had complained that his father's presence made him nervous. Charlie told him, "You'd better get used to it because I'm going to be here."
"Now I can appreciate the feelings he must have had," Jack said. "I probably get as uptight over their games as I do over my own. I die."
Jackie Nicklaus scored the only touchdown that day and the North Palm Beach Private School (fourth and fifth grades) won 6-0. Afterward, in the parking lot, his father told Jackie he "must have gained at least 70 yards running the ball." Stevie said he doubted it.
Jack dropped them off at the house and drove to a small, grubby-looking Italian restaurant to pick up pizzas for dinner. Awaiting his order, Jack said, "I want things to be comfortable for my kids so they can be healthy and have the things they need. College education, money for emergencies. Any more than that I want them to earn. I feel I earned mine. They used to write, 'poor little rich kid.' Bull. My dad had a pharmacy on the Ohio Slate campus, and his best years for a long while were $12,000-$15,000 years. He only joined the Scioto Country Club because he damaged his ankle and was told he had to start walking again or he would end up a cripple. I'd go along, and when he got tired he would let me hit a few.
"Now the only social golf I play is with my kids. Last summer Jackie entered in the same age-group tournament I started in at Scioto. It was an 18-hole event when I won with a 121. Now it's 36 holes and he shot an 86 and a 101 and finished second. It's a different world."
He picked up the pizzas and went out to the family station wagon. "Golf has always been a game for me," he said. "People don't always understand that. They say, 'Three hundred thousand dollars, wow.' But even at the start, it wasn't the money. My dad didn't think I would turn professional. I had talked to Bobby Jones about it. Jones hadn't, of course, and he was a good friend. I remember he watched me play for the first time at the National Amateur in 1955 when I was about 15. He watched three holes—two bogeys and a double bogey. He said, I think I'd better come back another time.'
"Anyway, I'd already been in the insurance business for almost two years and was making about $18,000 a year and that meant a fairly comfortable life. But after a while [two U.S. Amateur championships] I didn't feel I was playing my best against the best. I fell I had to turn pro.