Jack Nicklaus now stalking bonefish like he used to stalk birdies

By Steve Waters
Published on
Jack Nicklaus now stalking bonefish like he used to stalk birdies

When he's not traveling the world designing golf courses, raising money to provide medical care for youngsters or attending the sporting events of his grandchildren, chances are you'll find Jack Nicklaus on a bonefish flat in the Bahamas, fly rod in hand.

At 75, the world's greatest golfer is busier than ever. But whenever he can get away for a few days, he's going sight-fishing for bonefish.

"I think that bonefishing combines hunting, it combines calculation of where the fish could be, what the tides are, what the moon is, time of day," Nicklaus said. "It forces you to figure out what's going on.

"Once you figure out what's going on and fish show up, then they've got to be stealthily approached, the fly's got to be properly presented and it's got to be fed to them properly. And then once they get on, you've got a pretty good fight on your hands."

Nicklaus, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, lives in North Palm Beach. He said he moved to the area 50 years ago because the offshore fishing was so good. He'd fish for sailfish and kingfish out front and for tuna in the Bahamas in his boat.

Eventually, he tired of trolling – Nicklaus hasn't fished offshore in about 15 years – and turned to fly fishing in shallow water.

Instead of blindly casting, Nicklaus looks for the fish first, then moves into position so he can cast to it. Besides bonefish, Nicklaus likes to spot and stalk tarpon and permit, as well as trout in New Zealand streams.

MORE: Nicklaus launches his own line of ice cream | Nicklaus to receive Congressional Golf Medal

All of those fish can be frustratingly spooky, which makes the challenge of catching them especially rewarding.

It could be compared to the challenge of stalking birdies coming down the stretch of a major tournament. No golfer did that better than Nicklaus, whose 18 majors are the benchmark of the sport.

"I had a blast when I played tournament golf," Nicklaus said. "People talk about pressure, but that's what I loved. That was the fun of it. That was my way of fun. Other people's way is not to have pressure."

Nicklaus plays more tennis than golf these days, and he continues to expand his business interests. In addition to golf course design, the Nicklaus Companies markets clothing, shoes, wine and golf balls. The newest item is Jack Nicklaus ice cream, which will soon be available in seven flavors at select supermarkets. As with several Nicklaus products, sales of the premium ice cream will benefit children's charities.

For Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, providing families with access to quality pediatric care is of paramount importance. The Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation is the primary beneficiary of the Honda Classic, which started Thursday at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, and which last year donated $2.55 million to charity.

Earlier this month, the foundation pledged $60 million to support the growth of the Miami Children's Health System. In recognition of the grand gesture, Miami Children's Hospital will now be known as the Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

MORE: Watch Sergio blast his fully submerged ball and save par | Bubba challenges MLB star to race

"All this has happened because of this golf tournament," said Nicklaus, who will make some cameo appearances on Golf Channel and NBC broadcasts of the Honda.

He said he spends 400 hours, or 200,000 miles, traveling in his airplane each year. During one two-week span last year, Nicklaus said he spent 80 hours on his plane traveling to Scotland for the Ryder Cup; Turkmenistan, where he's designing the country's first golf course; Morocco; Tallahassee, for one of his grandson Nick O'Leary's Florida State football games; China and Japan.

He also travels to receive honors that recognize the high standards he set as a golfer, family man and businessman.

Last week he was at Trump National Doral to dedicate the new Jack Nicklaus Villa. Nicklaus will be in Washington next month to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Given that hectic schedule, Nicklaus heads to the Bahamas every chance he gets.

"I probably go on 8-10 trips a year for three or four days," Nicklaus said. "Every time I can find a month with time to get away."

This article was written by Steve Waters from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.