Jack Nicklaus Had Polio

Jack Nicklaus Had Polio 1(Gunnsteinn J/Flickr)

If I knew the Golden Bear had polio as a teen, I had forgotten. I read this over the weekend from a 2004 Golf Digest interview:

I had polio when I was 13. I started feeling stiff, my joints ached, and over a two-week period I lost my coordination and 20 pounds. The doctors thought I had the flu.

I played an exhibition with Patty Berg and shot 53 for nine holes — not very good for a kid with a plus-3 handicap.

My sister, Marilyn, was diagnosed at about the same time; the doctors deduced that she got it from me. Marilyn, who was 10, was unlucky. For a year she was unable to walk but eventually got 95 percent of her movement back.

I recovered after a few weeks, but I still may suffer from post-polio syndrome. My whole career, my joints have gotten awfully sore at times. Polio is just a memory now, but it was a horrible disease. I got it a year or two before Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was distributed.

The great ones seem to overcome all kinds of obstacles.

The Armchair Golfer

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

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