NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. — He has heard the roar of the crowd from the greatest courses around the globe and has sealed his name as golf's greatest. Yet the passion that circles Jack Nicklaus these days revolves around the woman who sits closest to him and a promise made decades ago.
"We just looked at each other and said, 'If we ever are in a position to help someone, we want it to be children,'" Barbara Nicklaus recalled.
When the last putt sunk and a legendary career was cemented, Jack Nicklaus eventually turned his attention in a new direction right about the time the Honda Classic moved to town.
"I looked at Barbara and I said, 'Do you want to go for it?' And she said, 'Absolutely,' and that's when we started our foundation," Jack Nicklaus said.
Twenty years ago, the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation started alongside what would be the beginning of the Honda Classic's run in Palm Beach County. A small charity at the beginning with roots firmly planted in North Palm Beach would soon grow into a global cause.
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"It just happened," Barbara Nicklaus said. "One thing led to another, and it was more fun, and we just really feel blessed that we've been able to help children."
There's also the enormous satisfaction that has come with it.
"This has been Barbara's passion, but I've gotten involved in it and I've had a blast. I've absolutely had a blast," Jack Nicklaus said. "I've enjoyed it. I've had fun. You see these little kids that come in, they grab these doctors by the leg and they're looking up and say, 'You saved my life, doctor. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you.' I mean, you just melt on it. How could you not?"
Their mission strengthened in 2015 when Miami Children's Hospital was renamed Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Heart strings began to pull, tears were shed and joy was set in motion.
"People have heard me say it before — a baby is God's opinion that the world should go on, and what better gift to any of us than a healthy child," Barbara Nicklaus said.
To date, their foundation has raised $170 million across the country and remains the No. 1 recipient of the Honda Classic. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus will also be the first to say how the people around them have helped drive this cause.
"It's not golf that does this," Jack Nicklaus said. "But because of a couple 4-foot putts that I made, if I hadn't made those 4-foot putts, I wouldn't be in a position to talk to people and say, 'Help us.'"
The big-hearted couple are ambassadors not just for the game of golf, but for children whose lives have depended on their philanthropy day after day, year after year.
"It's a foundation that will live on forever and help kids forever," Jack Nicklaus said. "That's really — we didn't dream that when we started out, but we're dreaming it now and we're loving it."