A few weeks ago, Jack Nicklaus came out to the American Lake Veterans Golf Course for the “grand opening” ceremonies of the new nine he designed (pro-bono), even though the course won’t really open for a while yet. His appearance in the Seattle Tacoma area coincided with the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, and he had a number of events to attend I am sure, so the three and a half hours he spent at ALVGC were just another indication of his generosity and warm feelings to our veterans. For those three and a half hours he never stopped smiling, or signing autographs, or posing for photos with fans. He never grew impatient even though seemingly everyone wanted a piece of him. Ah, the life of being a legend.
For me, it was an absolutely surreal experience, to be in the presence of a man that I have idolized virtually my entire life. For a golf crazy man like me, to meet the greatest golfer in the history of the game just didn’t seem real. But it was really him! The voice that we all know so well, the familiar mannerisms, and when he hit the ceremonial first shot, the swing that won eighteen majors.
Perhaps the most indelible impression I have of him is just the kindness with which he looked at everyone. It was as though he knows that he was bestowed with incredible talents, but that through hard work, perseverance, determination, good fortune, good parents and mentors, a fantastic choice of Barbara to marry, good values, and so on down the line, he made the most of what he was given. And now he and Barbara are giving back in a huge way. Yes he has had some heartbreak along the way, both personally and professionally, but in so many ways he has had a magical life in the greatest game. His kind eyes seem to express a humility that he was somehow chosen to play this role, but that it could have been any of us instead.
I have spent more than a few hours thinking about that kind face, and the paradox of the killer instinct he showed in golf tournaments, the steely gaze he always seemed to have when competing, the incredible will to win. How can those two things co-exist?