Why Jack Nicklaus’ performance at the 1981 Open Championship was a lesson in deep focus

Jack Nicklaus '81 Open

For Jack Nicklaus, making the cut at Royal St. George's was not a chip shot.

Robert Dear/AP Photo

The ability to compartmentalize is an important skill to have in helping achieve success. You see it in those who are the very best at what they do. They can take what’s happening elsewhere and set it aside for the moment, focus intently on what’s required and not be as affected as the rest of the world is.

My father, Jack Nicklaus, has one of those stories.

jack nicklaus swings
The secret to Jack Nicklaus’ mind-boggling Open Championship success
By: Zephyr Melton

On the eve of the 1981 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, Dad took a phone call that nearly derailed his ability to play golf. Back in the States, my brother Steve had dropped off his date and was on his way home when he fell asleep on the Jack Nicklaus Freeway in Columbus, Ohio.

His car crossed the median, flipped six times and ended up on the opposite side of the highway. Steve was fine, thankfully. He got out of the car and somehow walked home. Dad was obviously extremely upset when he received the news.

When he realized Steve was safe, he decided to stay and play. But in that first round, Dad shot an 83. Incredibly, relieved that Steve was OK, he pulled himself together emotionally and shot a 66 in the second round to make the cut. Dad finished tied for 23rd, quite a golf accomplishment given the circumstance.

All of us have a lot going on in our lives, from work to our children to projects at home. There are plenty of days when it seems like too much. But Dad was always able to focus on whatever he could. Giving whatever was in front of him his full attention, Dad was able to excel on the course, in business and when it came to raising a family. There’s a lesson for all of us here: to focus on what we can control instead of worrying over things we can’t.

Adapted from Best Seat in the House: 18 Golden Lessons from a Father to His Son, by Jack Nicklaus II and Don Yaeger. Copyright 2021. Reprinted with permission of Thomas Nelson Publishing.

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