This interview appeared in the June 2019 edition of GOLF Magazine.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Fifty-eight-and-a-half years of marriage to my wife, Barbara.
What is your greatest fear?
It happened: We lost a grandchild. There’s nothing worse for a parent than losing a child. And for a grand-parent, it’s a double whammy. Not only have you lost a grandchild, but you bear the sadness for your child who lost their child. I had it happen to me, and I still fear it.
Which living person do you most admire?
Probably Barbara. She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met, and she drives me crazy with it, because it’s everything and everybody else first.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My boat, the Sea Bear. It’s ridiculous. I use it about 20 days a year, and it costs a fortune. I added it up per day, and I could buy half the U.S. Navy for what it costs.
What is your current state of mind?
Very positive. I spent most of my life playing golf and designing courses. And my wife supported me all that
time. Now I’ve got a new life supporting Barbara in the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation we started 15 years ago. She’s raised my salary four times this year, from zero to double zero to triple zero to quadruple zero. In the past, I never would ask anybody for anything. Now, I don’t mind asking people for a donation, because I’ve seen the good that being able to help kids will do. And I’ve had a ball doing it.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’m really quite happy with what my talents were. No what-ifs.
What quality do you appreciate most in your friends?
That they look at me as being just another person. Sycophancy drives me insane. I don’t like it. I never liked it.
On what occasion do you lie?
Well, I try not to. Every time there was an article written about me that I wouldn’t like, my wife would hide it. That was sort of a lie of omission. The problem with me is, if you ask me a question, I generally give you an answer, and sometimes those answers come back to bite me. So I wish I had the talent of omission.
Who are your heroes in real life?
I never had heroes, I suppose, but I’m big on the military and the guys who give their lives and limbs to protect us.
What is your greatest regret?
Watson’s chip at Pebble in ’82 and Trevino’s chip at Muirfield in ’72.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Barbara and our five kids, without question. And 22 grandkids, obviously. Certainly not golf. Golf is a game, and I happened to be good at the game. But you know, there are a lot more important things to life than golf.
Nicklaus Companies and GOLF.com are affiliates of 8AM Golf.