"But I've never treated golf purely as a business. If I had, I think it would have hurt me. I think it hurts Frank Beard that way. You can get so wound up you don't do anything right. A couple years ago I was pressing that way. I didn't sleep well, I got a scaling on my face, like dandruff. I was one big nerve.
"Right now I haven't picked up a golf club in almost a month. People think I'm nuts. But it's best for me to get completely away, not even think about it. Then come back, like a ballplayer comes to spring training—fresh.
"Maybe at 40 I will enjoy the game more for itself. Guys with longer swings, like Snead and I, tend to last longer anyway. But now I feel I have to be refreshed between tournaments. Instead of fewer outside interests I have more. My business really excites me. I'm constantly involved. I'm involved with my kids. I want them to know I'm involved. These days people talk about drugs. When I was a kid it was cigarettes or alcohol. If my kids wanted to try something I'd tell them the same thing my father told me: 'If you want to try something I'd like you to try it first with me. Then we'll understand it better.' "
He thought for a moment, sitting in the car outside his house. "I'm convinced I would burn myself out if I did it the way some people do. The thing about golf is that it is so mental. Golfers peak later than most athletes because the process takes longer. It's not a game of reaction, it's a game of thought and correction. In tennis I don't always react quickly enough, and it makes me mad. When I played basketball [in high school] I was a better offensive player because I could think a little ahead.
"I don't believe I've peaked. I still have the same goals. Win more major tournaments than anyone else and, if possible, four in one year. Sure, I'd like to go down as the greatest who ever played, but all the proof you'd have would be the record and even that might not be enough. Jones didn't have the tournaments to play in that I've had. The big purses. Hogan didn't. Snead didn't. Certainly if you said it now it would be premature. There are still too many deficiencies in my game. I don't drive the ball as well as I should. My irons aren't as good, my play around the green. Too many deficiencies."
He said that was enough. He had been talking about himself since leaving the restaurant. The pizza would be a relief to get into. In the Nicklaus dinette, off from the always buzzing kitchen, Barbara had laid place mats out and was filling glasses of ice with tea. The conversation returned to Hogan. He hadn't gotten to know Hogan that well. They had played for the first time when he was an amateur, in the U.S. Open, and he certainly didn't ask for any tips.
"Actually, Hogan didn't say a word the whole round," he said. "Except afterward. He blew a tie for first and finished ninth, and I was second. He said, That big kid'—meaning me—'shoulda won the tournament.' " Nicklaus laughed, and reached for another slab of pizza.
Jack Grout leaned back in his box seat at Calder Race Course and put his knees on the little ledge that held the programs and binoculars of his host, a millionaire member of the La Gorce Country Club. Of the four men in the box, Grout was tannest and tallest, a stringy man with steel-rimmed glasses and gray hair combed straight back. He wore a clip-on tie that he had grabbed off the rack on his way out of the pro shop after giving a lesson to Ken Harrelson. The tie was no match for his pants and jacket, but it satisfied clubhouse requirements.
Grout has been the La Gorce pro 12 years, migrating to Miami from the Scioto club where he first taught Nicklaus. On request, he was into a leisurely discourse on Nicklaus as the Calder horses slogged through the heat on the other side of the glass.
"I told his father, 'Charlie, be prepared to take a lot of abuse and to keep your mouth shut. Your kid has knocked over the king of golf. People won't like it. If you don't want a lawsuit on your hands, hold your temper." He had a temper, Charlie. He wanted to hit a guy in a restaurant one time. Oh, he'd get so mad!" Grout clenched his fists in front of him making them tremble.