DELRAY BEACH, Florida – Theodore Roosevelt once said that “tasks connected with the home are the fundamental tasks of humanity.’’
Whether or not Jack Nicklaus ever read that quote from the man his sons called “The Lion,’’ is not as important as the fact that Nicklaus, known the world over as “The Golden Bear,’’ lived TR’s philosophy when it came to balancing fame and family life.
In his new book, “Best Seat in the House,’’ Jack Nicklaus II – the oldest of the five Nicklaus children – describes what is like growing up with a famous father and with a famous father’s name.
Even approaching his 60th birthday, “I still struggle with it,’’ Jackie Nicklaus told me.
The book’s title comes from Jackie caddying for his father when the older Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46. The pictures of father and son embracing on the 18th green at Augusta National Golf Club are among the more famous in sports. The title, of course, also is a metaphor for what it was like to be raised in the House of Nicklaus.
Co-written with best-selling author Don Yaeger and published by HarperCollins, “Best Seat in the House,’ is an easy and entertaining 189-page read that gives readers glimpses into the 60-plus marriage of Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and how they navigated (and continue to navigate) the obligations of fame with the obligations of family.
“What resonates most is being there for your kids,’’ said Jackie, president of Nicklaus Design and vice-chairman of Nicklaus Company. “We had my parents’ full attention. I have tried to do that with my five children. I still watch my mom and dad attend all the grandchildren’s games. It’s been such an inspiration and has really made a difference in my life.’’
Some of the stories in “Best Seat in the House’’ are familiar; others, particularly those dealing with the relationship between his grandfather, Charlie Nicklaus and his father, are the foundation for the book’s subtitle, “18 Golden Lessons from a Father to his Son.’’
Each chapter title focuses on one of those lessons, beginning with “Listen to Your Children,’’ and ending with “See the Bigger Picture.’’
“So many stories,’’ Jackie said. “I had been writing in journals for years – really before the Masters in 1986. Don really helped me organize my thought and direct me. I think I could have gone on, but Don said, ‘That’s enough, 18 is a perfect number.’’’
There are no deep, dark Nicklausian secrets revealed. That’s neither the Nicklaus way nor the point of the book. But in “Best Seat in the House,’’ fathers will see their sons and sons will see their fathers through the eyes and experiences of a man tasked with the responsibility of carrying on his father’s unmatched legacy.
“I know dad as ‘dad,’’’ Jackie said. “Even when he was winning all those tournaments, he was always ‘dad.’
“My biggest goal with the book was to honor my father and to honor his legacy and try to give people an ‘inside the ropes’ look at what dad accomplished in ’86, what he accomplished in his career and give them a glimpse at who feel is the greatest man I have ever known.’’