Everybody knows Jack Nicklaus. Reporters are interviewing him all the time. He fills the TV screen at the big tournaments, and he writes golf tips and analyzes matches for the readers of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Well, in a different kind of story that begins on page 80—and will continue in each of the next three issues—SI readers will get to know Nicklaus much more intimately. Jack kept a three-month diary for us, from the Crosby Tournament in California last January through the Masters in Georgia last month. He calls the result The Life I Lead. It is quite possible that even Jack Nicklaus has learned some new things about Jack Nicklaus.
This is an article from the May 11, 1964 issue
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S editors were not asking for philosophy, or revelations, or major conclusions about golf. They did not particularly care whether Jack won a flock of tournaments between January and April. "What we aimed for," says Senior Editor Ray Cave, "was to have Nicklaus, in a sense, paint his own portrait as line was added to line and tone to tone in a day-to-day resume of his activities."
And there was more to the editors' intentions. From Cave again: "Nicklaus is a more complex personality, much wiser and more determined, than he lets the world know. He is conscious of being a young newcomer in an older man's game. He works at being deferential in public, at being bland. He rallies no armies, but he has charm, he is tough and he cares a great deal about being among the best. Perhaps this could be put across in a three-month journal."
Nicklaus showed little enthusiasm for our idea at first. He did not care to spend time thinking about "what am I thinking?" Then he took it as a challenge and agreed—with stipulations. He would put down only what interested him, he would be the sole judge of what might be published and he could quit if he got bored after a week or two. He did not quit. Like any good reporter, Jack began seeing things he had not noticed before, and telling himself, "I've got to get that in." The Life I Lead puts day-to-day events together into a revealing image of a fine champion who is also:
•A sportsman who cares almost as much for fishing, hunting and bridge as he does for golf
•A discriminating trencherman who can put down two dozen oysters at a sitting
•A sensitive father who, at the last moment, took his 2½-year-old son to a tournament because he became sad at the thought of leaving the boy behind
•A traveler trying to decide whether to buy, and fly, his own airplane on the circuit (a salesman-pilot once thrust the controls into his hands on a take-off")
•A golfer whose game, like everybody's, develops flaws that someone else has to help him with
•The favorite in the 1964 Masters who, when he lost, fleetingly thought of playing no more golf at all this year—but who shook himself out of this mood even as he was smilingly helping Arnold Palmer into the green coat of the Masters champion.