PONTE VERDA BEACH, Fla. – Ignited by the PGA Tour, inspired by Bob Hope and moved by his wife, Barbara, Jack Nicklaus became a major force in raising money for charities.
“Helping a little kid is far more important than a 4-foot putt,” Nicklaus said.
Wednesday at The Players Championship, the Nicklauses announced their latest involvement in a charitable drive that will involve the global golf community. Called Play Yellow, the campaign hopes to raise $100 million in the next five years for children’s hospitals. The Nicklaus family has long supported Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which have been reliant on donations to fund pediatric care for millions of children.
Play Yellow comes from the yellow golf shirts Nicklaus often wore in the final round of tournaments to honor Craig Smith, the son of a close family friend who was battling a rare bone cancer. Smith died in 1971 at the age of 13.
In 1986 on the final day of the Masters, Nicklaus was rummaging through his suitcase, Barbara said, and came upon a yellow shirt. At 46, Nicklaus won his record sixth green jacket wearing the yellow shirt.
“When I was playing, charities were part of what we did. We didn’t think a whole lot of about it, but we did it,” said Nicklaus, the only three-time winner of The Players. “But I played a ton of exhibitions with Bob Hope and he was wonderful, and I watched what he did for charity.”
Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, has benefited Nationwide Children’s Hospital and other charities since its inception in 1976.
The Nicklauses have close ties to a number of CMN Hospitals, notably Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.
When the Honda Classic moved to the Palm Beach County in Florida, where their family was living, Barbara and Jack created the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation in 2004. The Foundation has raised more than $100 million. There are 14 Nicklaus Children’s Outpatient Centers spread throughout the state.
“There isn’t a higher calling than helping a child in need,” Barbara said.
The Golden Bear nodded in agreement.
“Barbara had supported me for 40 years,” Nicklaus said. “All of a sudden this was her thing, and I’ve supported her for the last 14 years. My focus has turned to helping children. It is so darn rewarding. I don’t need the golf anymore. I don’t need the other stuff anymore. But a lot of people need what golf has allowed us to be in position to do.”
More details about Play Yellow can be found at playyellow.org.