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SPORTS: Nicklaus’ tragedy puts golf in perspective


JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–For most of Jack Nicklaus’ life, golf has been a top priority. The Golden Bear has 113 total victories around the world. He’s won more than $8 million and is the greatest player the game has ever known.

But things have suddenly changed for Nicklaus. Now golf doesn’t seem so important anymore.

Nicklaus’ 17-month-old grandson Jake died March 2 after falling into his family’s hot tub. According to an AP report, Jake and his 4-year-old brother, the children of Nicklaus’ son Steve and his wife Krista, had been playing in the hot tub under the supervision of their nanny. But when she took the boys inside, Jake somehow slipped back outside and fell into the hot tub.

Although Jake was still breathing when emergency workers arrived, he later died at the hospital.

In an announcement a few days ago, Nicklaus said he most likely will not play in this year’s Masters in April. A Masters tournament without Nicklaus is like March without the madness. He belongs there. He’s a fixture. He might as well have created the tournament.

But Nicklaus knows his family needs him in these trying days, so he said the chances of him playing in Augusta are “between slim and none.” Who can blame him?

“I think with what’s happened to us in our family, my time is going to be spent in much different ways,” Nicklaus said in a press conference. “That’s the most important thing right now. And I think it will be the most important thing for a long time.”

Tragedies like this have always saddened me, but they’ve never been so real since the birth of my son less than two years ago. The very thought of something like this happening to Daniel fills my heart with dread, and I can’t imagine the intense pain the Nicklaus family is enduring right now. They need our prayers.

It’s a shame that we need heart-wrenching stories like this to put things in perspective for us, but that’s usually what happens. I think about Jake, and I think about my Daniel. Though I love Daniel dearly, sometimes I get tired of reading him another book or chasing him around the house for the 541st time. Sometimes after a long day I’d rather sit on the couch and just read a book or watch TV. Sometimes it’s easy to withdraw from him and tell him to go play in his room. Other parents undoubtedly have similar feelings from time to time.

But then I think about little Jake Nicklaus, and my heart grieves for his family. Jack undoubtedly had dreams of teaching his grandson how to the play the game he loves so much, but those dreams will now go unfulfilled. Never again will the Nicklaus family see Jake smile or hear him laugh. Never again will they read him another book. His death has left a gaping hole that will be vacant the rest of their lives.

So I get up off the couch and soak up Daniel’s laughter as I chase him around the house for the 542nd time. And I pray it won’t be the last.
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Tim Ellsworth writes a weekly column for BPSports, on the Web at www.BPSports.net. His web log is at www.thewinningspirit.blogspot.com

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›