Father Knows Best: Jack Nicklaus Never Let His Kids Beat Him at Golf

Father Knows Best: Jack Nicklaus Never Let His Kids Beat Him at Golf

Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II Jack Nicklaus cools off while swimming with 2-year-old son, Jack II in Columbus, Ohio, in September, 1963.

You’ll have to forgive Jack Nicklaus II if he can’t remember the first time he beat his father at golf. The reason: It didn’t happen very often.
Nicklaus II, who is playing with his father in this week’s Father and Son Challenge in Orlando and famously caddied for him at the 1986 Masters, is an accomplished player and golf-course designer in his own right but he still has trouble getting the best of his old man, now 73 years old, on the golf course.

I remember several times with a putt one way or the other. I had a putt to beat him or dad had a putt to miss or whatever. He seemed to always make it, I seemed to always miss it. Honestly, I don’t know if I recall the first time I beat him. It doesn’t happen very often. It still doesn’t happen very often.

The reason, Nicklaus Sr. says, is that he never let his kids win anything. They had to earn it.

I know that he’s right about if I’ve had a 30‑foot putt to keep one of them from beating me, I’ve probably made it. And the reason for that is that I’ve never‑‑ I’ve always felt like I don’t want to ever give them anything. If they’re going to beat me, they’ve got to beat me, and I think when you do that, then they feel like they’ve really earned it, and that’s good. That’s how you get better and that’s how you do things. But Jack has beat me a lot. All the boys have beat me a lot.

The PNC Challenge will be played Dec. 12-15 at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando. The father-son event was held from 1995-2008 and returned last year with new sponsor PNC Financial Services Group. Unfortunately, Arnold Palmer, a regular at previous Father and Son Challenges, won’t be there this year. Nicklaus Sr. said he’ll miss playing against his old friend and rival this year.

Arnold and I have played every time at the Father‑Son together, and we’ve had a lot of fun. I think there’s probably a certain time when you just say, hey, I’ve had enough. I think AP has probably said that. Yeah, he’ll be missed. We always enjoyed playing together. We always enjoyed competing. We always had fun. We’ll have him there in our minds and our thoughts. But I’d rather have him out on the golf course. He always liked to take a shot at me and I always liked to take a shot at him.

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