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The FIRST LADY OF GOLF
DAMON HACK
May 07, 2012
Sunday at TPC Sawgrass is Mother's Day, and no woman has balanced the demands of the game and parenthood with more grace than Barbara Nicklaus
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May 07, 2012

The First Lady Of Golf

Sunday at TPC Sawgrass is Mother's Day, and no woman has balanced the demands of the game and parenthood with more grace than Barbara Nicklaus

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Barbara is still at the kitchen table telling stories as Jack prepares to leave for tennis. She recalls that at the 1973 PGA Championship at Canterbury (where Jack won his third Wanamaker Trophy), Gary ran onto the 18th green and into his father's arms after the third round in what became a favorite family photo. She remembers when Michael threw rocks into the creek and chased frogs at the '80 PGA at Oak Hill (where Jack won his fifth). Back at Oak Hill for the '89 Open, she remembers ducking away from the gallery ropes on the 8th hole to say hello to Laura Norman, then Greg's wife.

"We finished the round, and Jack says to me, 'Where were you on the 8th hole?' I'm thinking, There are 40,000 people on that golf course. How in the world does he know that I was not on the 8th hole? I said, 'You've got to be kidding. I had stopped to talk to Laura. But how did you know?' Jack said, 'I know how you walk, and I always know where you are.'"

A story like that, Barbara says, is why she has never felt like a golf widow. It is also why during the first round of the 2000 Memorial Tournament she stayed on the course to watch Jack play, even after telling Jackie next to the 14th green, "Don't get alarmed. I have a pain in my side."

Jackie recalls, "I was like, 'Let's get you in a golf cart,' and she was like, 'No, no, I want to watch your dad finish.'"

After Jack teed off on 15, Barbara cut across to the 17th and followed his last two holes. By the time Jack reached the 18th green, her face was a mask of pain. That night, she was hospitalized with kidney stones.

"Barbara is full of love, like her mother," says Gary Player. "Her mother and father were dear people, and Barbara has inherited those genes. She does everything that is right, not only with her husband but raising money for charity, phoning people when they've been sick. All the niceties and decencies, that's Barbara Nicklaus."

Her life is bountiful, but Barbara has also experienced the pain of loss.

In 2005, Barbara and Jack's 17-month-old grandson, Jake, drowned in a hot-tub accident. That same year the couple formed the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation to help the youth in the area. The Nicklauses have partnered with the Miami Children's Hospital on a 23,000-square-foot pediatric urgent-care center down the street from their house. Each year they honor their grandson with The Jake, a golf tournament that benefits the foundation and keeps his memory alive.

"You never forget," Barbara says.

It is late morning now. Jack is itching to get to his tennis game, and Barbara has finished a grande Starbucks white chocolate mocha (two pumps).

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