You’ve probably noticed the billboards on Interstate 95 sporting a gold-colored bear inside of a pink heart. It’s the emblem of a new partnership between Miami Children’s Hospital and, you guessed it, the legendary Golden Bear himself. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus recently pledged $60 million through their foundation to the health system, bringing with it a new name and major enhancements to the hospital and its eight outpatient centers that span from Miami to Jupiter. We spoke with the Nicklauses about golf, life lessons and expanding the foundation’s reach.
What does the new name and partnership with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital mean to you?
JACK: To have our name on a hospital and several pediatric care facilities is not important to me to be very honest with you. … While we are humbled and honored to have our family name attached to a hospital, what is so very important is if we are in a better position to help kids. Does the brand help get greater recognition for the hospital? Does it expand its reach? Does our partnership with Miami Children’s Health System, and with facilities such as Jupiter Medical [Center], enhance the care we can provide the children and their families in these communities? Hopefully, it’s yes to all these questions.
Why did you decide to support the Miami Children’s Hospital, now the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital?
BARBARA: You feel like you want to grow and sprout a little bit. Our values are to be where the children are. We were looking for a partnership. If you needed health care, you had to go here for something, go there for something. We opened our outpatient center [at Jupiter Medical Center]. We felt like this was the best thing that we could do for children in the area.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you’ve been involved with pediatric health care since your daughter almost lost her life when she was an infant. What happened?
JACK: When our daughter, Nan, was just 11 months old, she had been struggling to breathe. In fact, she was basically choking. At the time, we were living in Ohio and we took her to Columbus Children’s Hospital. They performed a procedure—actually with an adult bronchoscope—and discovered she had inhaled a piece of crayon. She battled pneumonia and other complications while there, but the doctors and staff were terrific and they essentially saved her life. At that time, we decided that if we were ever in a position to give back, it would be primarily to children’s health care.
BARBARA: Of course now, Nan has five children of her own. We still look at her in amazement.
What was it like raising five children while supporting Jack with his career?
BARBARA: The best part was Jack’s commitment when he turned pro. He said, “I am making a promise that I will never be gone longer than two weeks at a time.” When Jack turned pro, he made us a part of his life. He never broke his promise. I don’t think the kids realized it at the time. It made the travel and all of that easier. We feel like we’ve been very good partners.
What life lessons did golf teach you?
JACK: The Golden Rule. Basically, you should treat others as you would want them to treat you. … Golf is a sport where you have more than 100 golfers on the course at one time for a tournament, and each one is expected to police themselves and call penalties on themselves. In an NBA game, you have 10 players on the court and you need three referees. But of all the life lessons the game of golf can teach a young man or woman, perhaps the most important for me was to treat people properly. Be a gracious winner and be sincere in defeat. If someone beats you, reach out your hand, offer them sincere congratulations and say, “Well done.”
How has golf changed since your professional days?
JACK: It’s changed a great deal in many ways, especially due to technology. But in many ways, it has stayed the same. … Golf has a unique quality in that it bridges ages and generations. What other sport allows a 75-year-old man to go out and play the same game with his children or grandchildren? Golf does.
What did you say to Jordan Spieth before and after his 2015 Masters win?
JACK: I saw him before the tournament and simply said, “Jordan, you have a great opportunity. Just be patient.” I then dropped him a note after his win. I told him that I thought it was one of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen. And, I said that a victory like this now comes with responsibility… and it will be the first of many.