By 1965, even at the young age of 25, legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus was well on his way to becoming one of the most revered players in the game.
Having already won two amateur championships prior to turning professional and joining the PGA in 1962, Nicklaus’ debut at the U.S. Open that year set the tone for his eventual Hall of Fame career. After tying with Arnold Palmer after four rounds at Oakmont, the two squared off for an 18-hole playoff. The rookie beat the beloved Palmer and his raucous “Arnie’s Army” by three strokes. The famed rivalry had begun.
Jump ahead a few years and Jack, along with his wife, Barbara, were the proud parents of two children: Jack Junior, who was born in 1961, and daughter Nan, who arrived four years later.
Jack Nicklaus, nicknamed the “Golden Bear,” won the Masters in 1965 – but also almost lost his daughter in a fluke accident the very next year.
As the story goes, 11-month-old Nan was playing with crayons one day when she somehow inhaled a blue Crayola.
“She was choking and would be okay for a short while, and then she would choke again,” Nicklaus recalled. The youngster was struggling to breathe.
Feeling helpless, the Nicklaus’ took their daughter to nearby Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“They used an adult bronchoscope, and they dropped a piece (of the crayon) in her lung, and she immediately went into pneumonia.”
There the Nicklaus family sat for several days, their tiny daughter ailing and close to death.
It wasn’t carelessness that caused the crayon to fall into the little girl’s lungs – it was lack of pediatric equipment on hand that would have made the procedure nearly routine.
Thankfully, little Nan fought back and recovered. They would be blessed with three more children.
“It was then that we pledged to each other that if we were ever in a position to help others, we wanted to help children, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus said. “It is said there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up. So early in our lives, we wanted to extend that hand to lift up children.”
And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Established in 2004, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation began with a local focus but over the last two decades has grown to help children all around the world – and raised well over $100 million. In 2015, the family pledged a $60 million gift to Miami’s Children Hospital.
“It’s been fun; it’s been a labor of love,” says Barbara. The Nicklaus’ celebrated their 63rd year of marriage this past June.
It’s consistent with God’s nature to use difficult things for good in the lives of those who love Him – even a blue Crayola Crayon once lodged in the lung of a little girl named Nan Nicklaus.
Photo from Shutterstock.