Some may wonder how, just a week after his 17-month-old grandson drowned in a hot tub, golf great Jack Nicklaus could manage to tee up at a tournament, even one for charity. But longtime pal Gary Player understands perfectly. “I think the best thing for him is to get out and be with his friends,” says Player, at whose event to benefit his children’s foundation Nicklaus, 65, appeared on March 8 in West Palm Beach. “The sooner you can do that, the better it is. It helps you.”
These days the close-knit Nicklaus clan needs comfort indeed as it struggles to cope with the death of Jake Walter Nicklaus, one of the youngest of Jack’s 17 grandchildren. (Jake’s parents are Steve Nicklaus, 41, a golf course designer who often caddies for his father, and his wife, Krista, 35, a jewelry-store owner who is currently 3½ months pregnant.) Live-in nanny Caroline Brickweg, 25, told police she had brought Jake and his brother Steve Jr., 4½, into their house after all three of them had played in the hot tub. But as she was getting dressed, she realized Jake was gone. Finding the sliding patio door of the North Palm Beach home open, she rushed to the tub, where she discovered Jake face down. “Oh my God, I had a baby fall into the hot tub, and he’s not breathing!” she frantically told the 911 operator. Though Brickweg administered CPR and an ambulance arrived within five minutes, Jake was pronounced dead at the hospital. The hot tub had the required fencing around it, but one panel was open. No charges are expected against Brickweg, a young woman from Nicklaus’s home state of Ohio who had been working for the family since November.
“I think with what’s happened to us in our family, my time is going to be spent in much different ways,” Nicklaus said on the eve of the Player event. “[Family is] the most important thing right now. And I think it will be the most important thing for a long time.”