Jack Nicklaus revealed Wednesday he turned to a Weight Watchers diet after tiring while playing 36 holes one day during the Ryder Cup in 1969.
The Memorial Tournament founder and host said he got up to 210 pounds during his “Fat Jack” days early in his career. Standing nearly 6-foot, he said it wasn’t an issue until that long day in ‘69, ‘the first time in my life I got tired.”
During a 73-minute press conference at Muirfield Village Golf Club, Nicklaus said he told his wife Barbara on the plane ride home from the Ryder Cup he was going to lose 20 pounds.
“A friend of mine had just used the Weight Watchers diet, I said, ‘Let me try your diet,’” he said. “I put on my shorts and a pair of golf shoes and went to the golf course with four or five clubs. I would hit and run around the golf course.
“I lost 15 pounds in two weeks … I actually ended up losing another five. I went from 210 to 185.”
Asked to describe what he meant by running around the golf course, Nicklaus said he played 18 holes in about an hour and a half.
Nicklaus was so confident he would reach his goal weight that he said he called a tailor at Hart, Schaffner and Marx, which he represented, and told the company to send someone down in two weeks to make alterations to his clothes.
Nicklaus said he originally feared the weight loss would hurt his game. That was quickly disproved.
“I went down to Kaiser International at Silverado, my first tournament, and won that,” he said. “I went to Las Vegas the next week and won that. Went to Hawaii the next week and finished second there. It didn’t hurt my golf game too badly.”
Nicklaus, now 73, said he didn’t start running until his 30s and began lifting light weights in his late 30s. He said he played in a recreational basketball league until he was 40 and still enjoys tennis.
“But I was not like the guys today,” he said. “Not even the football players lifted weights when I played. Fitness programs were not there. I would have liked to have had it because I was pretty disciplined when I played and I think it would probably have helped me.”