Every once in a great while, I task my friends here at ElevenWarriors with a reading assignment.
Consider yourselves assigned. This is required reading. "The Nicklaus Way of Golf -- and LIfe" by Bob Greene, in what will be tomorrow's (Thursday, April 3) Wall Street Journal. Apologies to all who find this paywalled for Journal subscribers. Find a copy. Borrow a log-in password. Read this. The ElevenEditors are going to have to front-page this somehow.
Here's a teaser:
In central Ohio when I was a boy, he was the pride of our town. You could walk around neighborhoods on weekend afternoons in summer and, from the screened-in porches, hear people in front of their television sets cheering for his shots as he competed in tournaments around the world. For profile writers over the years wanting to compose colorful stories about him, tales of his bitter and nasty feuds with other golfers, of his bombast and explosions and piques, the anecdotes just weren't there. Which may be the most telling anecdote about him of all.
When my best friend and I were 12, and Jack was seven years older, he won the United States Amateur Championship. We were writing for our mimeographed junior-high-school newspaper; his father, Charlie Nicklaus, was a local pharmacist with a listed home phone number, and for us getting an interview was as easy as calling that number and asking if Jack was there. He was. We sensed that he was thoroughly un-full of himself, and we appreciated that, in his quiet voice, he didn't talk down to us or make us feel rushed.
Those of us from that part of Ohio have long known something of which even most golf fans may be unaware: As a teenager, Jack had polio. Think of the fear that must have gripped the heart of a boy who hoped to become an athlete. He didn't use it as an excuse. It was his problem to deal with, and he did. He seldom discusses it publicly; when, 10 years ago, Golf Digest magazine asked him about it, his reply was direct and unadorned...