Jack Back with a Heavy Heart


Jack Nicklaus, age 65, is playing in The Masters, age 71.
Nicklaus is happy to be at Augusta National. Augusta National is lucky to have him there.
Jack and Jackie Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus and son/caddie Jackie practice Tuesday at Augusta National.
When Nicklaus tees off in the Masters Thursday morning, it will be for the 45th time. He has won this tournament on six occasions. No one else has done that.
There are a lot of other things no one else in golf has done besides Nicklaus. None of which is terribly important right now.
Last month Nicklaus lost his young grandson, Jake, in a tragic drowning accident in Florida. The entire Nicklaus family still grieves.
The hardest part is watching your children suffer, Nicklaus said Tuesday, referring mostly to Jakes parents'son Steve and daughter-in-law Krista. Thats the hardest part, going through the whole thing, its a double whammy for a grandparent, thats just not supposed to happen.
It is said no parent should have to endure the passing of a child. If that is so, the passing of a grandchild in a close-knit family is difficult to imagine.
A few years ago the lords of the Masters toyed with the idea of putting an age limit on Masters participants. The number was going to be 65. The club eventually backed away from that idea.
Jack Nicklaus, they realized, should be allowed to play in as many of these things as he wants. Tuesday he said he wasnt sure how many more that would be. As recently as 1998, at the age of 58, Nicklaus finished in the top 10. As recently as 1986, at the age of 46, Nicklaus won.
Two years ago at The Masters Nicklaus shot an 85. That, he said, was embarrassing.
There was no hiding from that score. But golf can be a very healing refuge. In the dark days following the death of little Jake Nicklaus, Jack played golf with son Steve because, Jack said, he didnt have anything else to do.
Soon Steve asked if they could go to Augusta and play a little golf there. Sure, Jack said.
Then they talked about whether Jack would play in this years Masters. Steve said, Go play.
Jack said, I want to play, but I dont have much of a golf game.
Steve said, Youll have a game.
'So, Jack said Tuesday in Augusta, Im here.
They will bathe Jack Nicklaus with applause and good wishes at every turn at Augusta this week. He will not be a ceremonial golfer. He will be a parent, a grandparent and a champion.
It will be absolutely impossible not to root for him every step of the way.
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