Arnie & Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf’s Greatest Rivalry
by Ian O’Connor
Teacher’s Comments: It’s supplemental reading for those who already have a passing knowledge of the two greats. Others may get a distorted picture.
I think that it would be safe to say that more words have been written about Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus—both individually and combined—than any other golfers in history (even considering Tiger Woods). Given that, it has to be hard for any author to come up with a new angle for a book on either of these men.
In Arnie and Jack, Ian O’Connor tries to explore new territory by focusing on the rivalry between the two golf legends. Aside from some necessary background, It’s a biography only as the lives of the two intersect.
The author’s premise is that each of the two men had what the other wanted. Arnie had the adoration of fans, and the endorsements, but wanted the victories. Jack had the victories, but wanted to be well-liked
It’s an interesting premise, and for the most part, O’Connor backs it up with quotes and other evidence from the principles, their family friends, and associates. I’m normally not a fan of such amateur psychoanalysis, but in this case, it seems to be well founded.
Even casual golf fans know of the Nicklaus-Palmer rivalry, but it might come as a surprise to some just how deep it went. They competed, apparently, in nearly everything. For example, since Arnold had an airplane (which he flew himself), Jack had to have his own plane, and even flirted with taking taking flying lessons himself.
Today, their playing careers over, the two continue to compete through their course design companies and their endorsements.
O’Connor is respectful of his subjects throughout—this is is by no means a hatchet job. But I also thought, that by focusing exclusively on the rivalry, both Palmer and Nicklaus came across as much less attractive figures than in any of the single biographies that I had read.
Among the les flattering aspects of their intertwined lives was the rift between the two that grew through the eighties. There is really no way to describe it other than pettty. Fortunately for golf—and for their own souls—Arnie and Jack seem to have patched things up in more recent years.
I’m going to recommend this book primarily for readers who already know something of the lives of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. It’s a supplemental book, really, and if read without background knowledge, will give you a somewhat distorted view.