Know Jack: Charlie and Helen Nicklaus

By Mercer BaggsApril 10, 2017, 11:00 am

The story of how Charlie Nicklaus met Helen Schoener is not an uncommon one. They went on a blind date, it was love at first sight. Romantic, but not unique to love stories.

But then Helen moved from Columbus, Ohio to live with her aunt in Baltimore, Md. Helen had a scarring childhood and adolescence. She lost all of her family and moved to the East Coast because she had no kin alive at home.

But Charlie – and now this is where the romance really kicks in – wasn’t about to let that be the end of their relationship. He mailed Helen a letter asking her to marry him – along with an engagement ring inside.

“He said, 'I will always provide for you and you will never want for anything,'” their daughter, Marilyn, says. “He couldn’t live without her.”

Charlie not only took care of Helen, but her aunt and her aunt’s adopted children, as they all moved to Columbus.

Charlie was a pharmacist. One brother was also a pharmacist. Another brother was a dentist. Their father, Louis, was a boilermaker [Helen’s father, too, worked on the railroads.]

Louis took the boys with him to work one day, where it was, conservatively, in excess of 120 degrees.

I don’t want this life for you, he told them.

And the boys listened well.

Charlie and Helen married in 1937 and had an apartment above Charlie’s tiny drugstore on Chittenden Avenue and High Street, near the Ohio State University campus.

They had two kids. Son Jack was born in 1940. Marilyn in 1943.

Charlie had attended OSU and played various sports, including football, basketball and baseball. He encouraged his kids to be multi-talented as well.

He was the athletic one, the outgoing one, the life of the party.

“[Charlie] was one of the people who never met a stranger,” Jack’s wife, Barbara says. “I mean, everybody loved Charlie Nicklaus.”

Jack and Helen Nicklaus before the 1957 senior prom (Nicklaus Family Archives)

Jack: A collection of Nicklaus stories

Helen was more reserved, more of a homebody. The loss of her family affected her life forever.

“She was scared of everything,” Jack says.

“She was always afraid of loss,” says Marilyn. “She was always afraid she was going to lose her kids or her husband.”

Jack would acquire traits from both – aggressiveness from his father, caution from his mother. It is evident in the way he played golf, shooting 65 when he needed to and shooting 73 when that was good enough.

When Jack was about 7, Charlie severely hurt his ankle playing volleyball. Jack had to help carry him into the house that day. It took a while to get a proper diagnosis and the ankle never fully healed. A doctor suggested he take up an activity that would allow him to walk, since he no longer had proper lateral movement, and get some exercise.

He decided on golf.

Charlie hadn’t played in 15 years, but it was the best option to follow doctor’s orders. And he got to spend time with his son carrying his bag.

According to Marilyn, a man walked into his drugstore one day and asked where he could find a dentist. Charlie directed him a couple of blocks away, and a few weeks later the man returned and the two got to talking. The man said he was a member at Scioto Country Club and Charlie mentioned that he’d love to play out there.

The man put Charlie’s name up for membership, Charlie was accepted, the family moved out that way in the winter of ’49, and Scioto pro Jack Grout took notice of Jack Nicklaus in ’50. History's chain of events.

Jack and Charlie were inseparable, best friends. He was always by his son’s side during tournaments. Helen would try but she just couldn’t stand to watch Jack if he was playing poorly. She'd shield herself behind trees and look away.

Helen – along with Marilyn and Barbara, and, of course Charlie – attended the 1957 Masters, Jack’s first time playing the tournament. She and Marilyn wouldn’t return until 1986, on a whim.

Charlie, however, was at all the big events. He had his gang of friends and they made the Masters and more boys’ trips.

In the late-‘60s Charlie began to slip into that retirement phase. He and Helen got a house down in Florida, near Jack and his family. Charlie would take the boat out, fish and play with his young grandkids.

And then, in 1969, it was thought Charlie had hepatitis. Jack was just getting back from Harbour Town, his first course design, after Thanksgiving when a doctor hold him it was pancreatic cancer. Charlie had 6-12 weeks to live.

They thought it best not to tell Charlie immediately, to let him enjoy life for as long as he could. This form of cancer is nearly unbeaten.

Christmas 1969, the Nicklaus’ all gathered together. Jack and his family flew in from Florida.

“I can remember it was snowing,” Marilyn says. “My mom was frantic. She was so worried that something was gonna happen to that plane. My dad was upstairs, ill in bed, and she went up to him and she was just worrying and fretting. He said, ‘Sis [for Sissy, his nickname for Helen], don’t worry. The runways are all heated. They’ll be fine. She bought it and calmed down.”

It was a memorable evening, for many reasons. Ohio State head football coach Woody Hayes unexpectedly came by the house that night to chat. And that was the last time Charlie ever ate a meal.

"The only thing he could keep down was Gatorade. So that kind of kept him alive, the electrolytes,” Jack says. “Died Feb. 19.”

He was 56.

“Dad taught me the right way. He taught me how to be a good sport, how to make sure that if you lose it’s not the end of the world,” Jack says. “Your word is you bond. And you got to deal with what you’re dealt."

Forty-seven years later, Jack is asked how much he thinks of his dad.

“Every day,” he says. “Never missed a day.”

Jack was going through a majorless drought, by his terms, when his father died. He hadn’t won one since 1967.

“I sort of looked at that and said, you know, my dad sort of lived through me and he enjoyed what I did. I don’t think I gave him a fair shake,” Jack says. “I wouldn’t say I was motivated by my dad’s death, by any means, but I certainly felt like you’re only here for a short period of time and you really need to give your best, and I did not think I gave my best during ’68, ’69. So I sort of focused myself back to playing.”

Jack got in shape. He won two majors in 1970, another in ’71 and two more in ’72. He won eight during the decade.

“I think every single tournament he won after his dad died was for his dad,” Barbara says.

Helen lived until she was 90, dying in August, 2000. In ’85, not sure how many more opportunities she would have, she told Jack she wanted to attend the Masters a final time. He said, let’s make it the next one.

Helen was there to witness her 46-year-old son win his sixth green jacket.

“That week was special. I think my mom being there was in Jack’s mind,” Marilyn says. “It was meant to be.”

Marilyn likes to say, it’s not what’s taught, it’s what’s caught. And she and Jack caught lots of love, which, in turn, has spread to their families.

Right after Charlie got out of pharmacy school, he had a sales job with Johnson and Johnson. He was offered a promotion to Chicago but didn’t take it. He wanted to raise his family in Columbus. Knowing the denial would end his career, he focused on using his degree.

“It was always about family,” Marilyn says. “Family was always first.”

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

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Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm