Jack’s ‘Letter to His Younger Self’

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IF YOU’RE A JACK NICKLAUS FAN, or at least interested in golf history, you may enjoy Jack’s “Letter to My Younger Self” that published a while back at THE PLAYERS’ TRIBUNE.

In the letter there are details about his early life and career that I didn’t know (or had forgotten). I wouldn’t say I’m an authority on Jack Nicklaus, but I did study him pretty closely and collected extensive research in order to write my second book about the 1969 Ryder Cup.

The letter, written in first person, fills in around the edges of Jack’s youth and more.

Nicklaus would tell you he had a strong work ethic similar to other golf greats such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. The following humorous anecdote from his letter speaks to that point:

The whole summer of 1950, you’ll work. Bucket after bucket of balls, swing after swing, divot after divot. 

Then one day, there’s going to be a bill in the mail. Dad will go grab it. Then he’ll yell your name in that voice … that voice is trouble, you know it. He’ll be holding a bill from Scioto. 

“Three hundred dollars, Jack?” 

At this moment, hold your ground, young man. 

You’ll say this to him. “Dad, you told me you wanted me to learn how to play golf….” 

He’ll say, “Yes, but $300 worth of range balls?” 

Now you got ‘im. 

“I don’t just want to learn the game. I want to be great at it.”

Three hundred dollars was a LOT of money in 1950. And that had to be a LOT of range balls.

It wouldn’t be long before Scioto pro Jack Grout would allow young Nicklaus to hit all the range balls he wanted without Charlie Nicklaus paying a dime.

As legend has it, no one pounded balls and dug it out of the dirt like Ben Hogan. He bloodied his hands in search of perfection. But I expect all the great ones — Nicklaus included — worked extremely hard to earn their greatness.

Talent can only take you so far.

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Neil Sagebiel

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