Know Jack: Helping and saving children's lives

By Mercer BaggsApril 10, 2017, 11:00 am

When you’re fighting for life – yours or another’s – to give up is not an option.

There was a girl born in Minnesota. Doctors told her family that she had an inoperable heart condition. All you can do, they told Mom and Dad, is take her home. And wait for her to die.

Not an option. The family, instead, brought their daughter to Miami, Fla.

“We didn’t give up on her and she survived,” says Redmond Burke, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

But there’s more:

“The Nicklaus’ knew her story and they felt responsible for her and so they went to Minnesota and visited that family,” Burke says. “I can’t imagine getting a phone call, ‘Hi, this is Jack Nicklaus. We’d like to come by and see how your child is doing.’ But that’s the kind of people they are.”

This wasn’t a one-off occasion or a photo opportunity, a chance to promote themselves or their charitable efforts. This was Jack and Barbara Nicklaus being Jack and Barbara Nicklaus.

Their dedication to improving and saving children’s lives goes back to when their 11-month-old daughter, Nan, was taken to a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She had been having difficulty swallowing for months, often choking. Doctors did a bronchoscopy – with an adult, not a children’s bronchoscope – and found out she had inhaled a blue crayon. When they tried to a remove it, a piece broke and dropped into her lungs.

Jack: A collection of Nicklaus stories

“Right into pneumonia,” Barbara says. “She was intensive care for six days.”

“They didn’t know if she was going to make it,” Jack says. “But they saved her life. We always felt, from that point on, that if we ever had the ability to help people, we wanted it to be children.”

Jack’s Memorial Tournament benefits Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the place where Nan was saved. Their involvement with the Honda Classic helps the benefit the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, through their Nicklaus Children’s Health Foundation.

“When I first got to this hospital 21 years ago, this was an empty field we used to have to land out helicopters,” Burke says.

“And now, because of Jack and Barbara and their foundation and their generosity, this building now stands here. All of those families can sleep with their babies in the cardiac intensive care unit and be with them, side by side.

“It’s the best kind of care. … I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

And, as we know, their involvement isn’t just financial, much more than the millions of dollars they’ve raised and donated.

Meet Ralphie Espinosa.

Ralphie was born with pulmonary hypertension. Doctors at their hospital said his only chance of survival was to go to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, 15 minutes away, which had a special machine that might save him.

“He had a 10 percent chance of survival, we were told,” father Ralph says.

“Doctors are telling you we’re gonna do this procedure, that procedure. Put little tubes through his aorta, put another one to his jugular vein. You know, this little baby next to this big machine that’s working for the heart and lungs for him. It was really overwhelming.”

Which is why the hospital doesn’t let parents go through something like this alone.

“At arrival, the nurses and social workers – it was all about taking care of us, too,” says mother Claudia. “He was on a life support machine. … It’s a roller-coast of emotions and there was always someone to take care of us.”

Ralphie was alive but externally lifeless. A machine sustained him. His mother and father held his hand. It was all they could do, afraid to leave the room in case the tide turned for the worse.

Ralphie gradually got better. He had to learn how to breathe, how to eat, things he was never allowed to do instinctively at birth.

He’s now thriving. He plays soccer and baseball, loves the Miami Marlins, pizza and the color blue.

“He is rambunctious,” Claudia says. “Full of joy.”

And he’s met the Nicklaus’.

“We’ve been to their house,” Ralph says. “Jack gave him some putting lessons in his backyard and they even ate some Jack Nicklaus ice cream together.

“Amazing family. We saw his trophies, from his Masters and U.S. Opens. We are blessed that they are part of this community.”

As for the hospital itself and its employees, the Espinosas are “eternally in debt to them.”

They’ll never forget the cafeteria lady who sang to Ralph every morning when he got his coffee. Or the nurses who stood alongside them, day after day. The doctors they saw again and again.

“They’ve become our friends. They ask me, ‘What did Ralphie dress up for Halloween?’ They call him on his birthday,” Claudia says. “And the Nicklaus’ are Ralphie’s friends, too.

“Their humanity is amazing.”

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

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.