Jack and Barbara Nicklaus
On November 17, 2017, longtime South Florida residents, Mr. Jack Nicklaus & Mrs. Barbara Nicklaus will be inducted into the Florida State Golf Association Hall of Fame at Lost Tree Club in Jupiter, Florida in conjunction with the FSGA Annual Dinner due to their tremendous efforts in junior golf and the community.
Born to Helen and Charlie Nicklaus on the 21st of January in 1940, Jack Nicklaus grew up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. A gifted, all-around athlete, Jack picked up golf in 1950 when he was 10 years old, and in his first golf outing, he shot a 51 at Scioto Country Club. Nicklaus went on to dominate junior golf in Ohio, winning five straight Ohio State Junior titles, the first at just 12 years old.
When it came time to attend college, Jack followed in his father’s footsteps and attended Ohio State University. During his time at Ohio State, he won two U.S. Amateur Championships in 1959 & 1961 and clinched an NCAA National Championship. His record-setting performance by winning both the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in 1961 has been duplicated by just four additional players in the following 55 years. His amateur career was highlighted by a runner-up finish at the 1960 United States Open, where he finished two strokes behind Arnold Palmer, joining Bobby Jones as the only other individual to finish runner-up in a U.S. Open as an amateur.
His highlight at Ohio State University did not come from golf, however. In Jack’s first week of his freshman year, he met his future wife, Barbara Bash. After he called her to go on a date with him later that evening, he realized how they held similar values, especially in the importance of family. Calling her his “foundation, voice of reason, sounding board, supporter, best friend, and love of [his] life,” Jack and Barbara were married in 1960 and welcomed their first of five children, Jack Jr. in September 1961. To financially support his family, Jack Nicklaus turned professional just two months after Jack Jr.’s birth, beginning his professional career on the PGA Tour in 1962.
Only needing 17 starts to earn his first victory, Nicklaus won the 1962 U.S. Open when he defeated Arnold Palmer in a playoff Sunday afternoon. Jack Nicklaus’s competitive golf career spanned over five decades and included 72 Official Tour victories with 18 of those being major championships. While Jack’s success was attributed to his hard work, he mentioned on numerous accounts how he would not be where he was without the love and support of Barbara.
Family & Professional Career
Living the lifestyle of a professional golfer meant lots of time on the road and with five children under the age of 12, both Jack and Barbara had a lot on their plates. Embodying the definition of a supportive wife, Barbara tended for the children while watching Jack make history on the golf course. Barbara accompanied Jack to nearly every event and walked each round with other spectators. Jack jokingly believes Barbara might have walked more golf courses than some professional golfers and learned the shortest routes and best vantage points at each course.
While she looked for no recognition, her selflessness and lifestyle did not go unnoticed by fellow Tour players. In an article by Golf Magazine, Gary Player boasted how “Barbara is full of love, like her mother. 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, [and] phone people when they’ve been sick.”
While it is undoubtedly known Barbara took care of the children and home so her husband could focus on his impressive golf career, what most are unaware of are the sacrifices Jack made in order to be a supportive husband and father. Jack made sure to make an appearance at his children’s sporting events, even if that meant flying after his round to South Florida, watch one of his children play, then catch the red-eye flight to make his third round tee time. Nicklaus took his role as a father very seriously and understood the sacrifices his wife made in order to provide for him and the family.
Jack & Barbara raised five children and are grandparents to 22 grandchildren. Some play golf and similar to how it was when Jack was playing full-time professionally, he still makes time to come out and watch his grandchildren tee it up at local events. From their first date until now, the emphasis on family remains the main focus of Jack & Barbara’s lifestyle.
Throughout his life, Jack has had the opportunity to design golf courses and enhance his architectural skills. Said to have enjoyed being a golf course architect because it provided a different kind of golf challenge, Jack co-designed his first course, Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, with fellow FSGA Hall of Fame member, Pete Dye, in 1969. In Florida, Nicklaus has designed more than thirty golf courses throughout the state including The Concessional Golf Club.
Perhaps his proudest creation and home to numerous PGA Tour members is The Bear’s Club. A reputable and prestigious club located a few miles from his home in South Florida, The Bear’s Club was founded by Jack & Barbara and while the course was designed by Jack, he credits the Italian Tuscan-style clubhouse to his wife. When Jack moved from Ohio in the mid-1960s, he and Barbara settled in South Florida. His home since 1970, located in the exquisite and private Lost Tree Club community, boasts one of the top-rated clubs in the country, therefore it was only fitting that their longtime resident, Jack Nicklaus perform the redesign of the course in 2002.
Throughout Jack's professional golf career, he and his wife, Barbara, have used their notoriety to be ambassadors to numerous organizations. From the promotion of junior golf to children hospitals, Jack & Barbara have dedicated much of their lives to assisting in the betterment of others. One of their most prominent organizations, the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, was founded in the early 2000's by Jack & Barbara to support numerous pediatric health-care services not only in South Florida but across the United States. Mrs. Nicklaus is the Chairman of The Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and the foundation has raised well more than $60 million in nearly 15 years.
Their support in children's hospitals was highly recognized when the Miami Children's Health System renamed its main hospital to Nicklaus Children's Hospital in 2015. In late 2016, Jack & Barbara opened the Advanced Pediatric Care Pavilion (APCP), a six-story cutting-edge facility within the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami's campus. In all, over ten outpatient centers across South Florida have adopted the Nicklaus name. For their exquisite and diligent efforts in children pediatrics, in 2010, both Jack and Barbara were inducted into the Ambassador David M. Walter International Pediatric Hall of Fame.
In addition to pediatrics, Jack & Barbara have become ambassadors to the junior golf world. With their main focus being the growth of junior golf across the country, Jack is the Trustee of The First Tee and sits as the national chair of the "More Than a Game" capital campaign for The First Tee. Within this position, he has spoken in front of the United States Congress as the liaison and voice of The First Tee discussing the character-building aspects the organization provides. Recently, he and the Nicklaus Companies were awarded a Trustee of the PGA of America, and Nicklaus specifically is the spokesperson for the charitable aspect of the PGA Tour known as PGA REACH. This charitable foundation strives to "positively impact the lives of youth, military, and diverse populations by enabling access to PGA Professionals, PGA Sections and the game of golf." Jack received the Ambassador of Golf Award in 2003 at Firestone Country Club, 13 years after his wife received the award for her continuous support to the game of golf.
Barbara Nicklaus, otherwise known as the First Lady of Golf, received the USGA’s highest honor, the Bob Jones award, in 2015 because of her resemblance to Mr. Jones’s spirit, personal character, and respect for the game. USGA President, Thomas J. O’Toole Jr. stated, “she [Barbara] has been the rock for arguably the game’s greatest champion, while raising a family and devoting her heart and soul into what she believes in.” The Barbara and Jack Nicklaus Junior Golf Endowment Fund was established to assist junior golf programs across the country to create opportunities for children.
Perhaps their most distinguishing award came in 2007 when Jack & Barbara were honored twice. First, both Jack & Barbara were awarded The Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizens Award for being community leaders and providing outstanding civic services to the youth in their community. In order to receive this distinguished award, individuals must embody what Boy Scouts stand for — "good citizenship, outstanding moral fiber with dedication to others, and for living their lives by the Scout Oath and Law." In addition, Jack & Barbara received the Francis Ouimet Lifelong Contributions to Golf Award due to their long list of contributions to the game of golf throughout their lives. Through Jack's success as a professional golfer, he and his wife have been able to make a difference in the lives of countless individuals, justifying their induction to the FSGA Hall of Fame.
The Florida State Golf Association is honored and humbled to have both Mr. and Mrs. Nicklaus become a part of the organizations history by being inducted into the FSGA Hall of Fame. Both Mr. and Mrs. Nicklaus have dedicated their lives to providing opportunities to others while putting family first and personify the true meaning of giving back to the community.