Jack Nicklaus on tweet supporting Trump: I knew ‘it was going to cause me some grief’ but ‘I think he’s been great’

When Vice President Mike Pence recently asked Jack Nicklaus if he would publicly support President Donald Trump and his bid for re-election, the legendary golfer did not hesitate.

“I’m delighted to do that,” Nicklaus, the North Palm Beach resident, said Friday, speaking about the controversial post for the first time. “I said, ‘You know how I feel about him. He’s been very supportive to everything we’ve ever done. He’s asked for nothing. If I can just on my own do that, I would be happy to do it.’

“And I know it was going to cause me some grief. So, that’s what I did.”

Opinion: Jack Nicklaus’ support of Donald Trump disappointing but not surprising

Pence’s call came as Trump, a part-time Palm Beach resident, and former Vice President Joe Biden are heading into Tuesday’s election. The race has become contentious, and caused a political and social divide in the country, which is why Nicklaus, the PGA Hall of Famer, was prepared for the reaction from his six-paragraph statement posted on Twitter Thursday.

“I knew when I did that that I would have certain percentage of the people (who) are not Trump fans and a certain percent of the people (who) are,” Nicklaus said. “The comments I have gotten, and Barbara (his wife) has gotten, have been overwhelmingly supportive of what I did.

“Of course, they’re probably people that are more interested in Trump. I don’t know anybody interested in Biden.”

Nicklaus spoke before heading out on The Old Course at Broken Sound with Barbara to watch son, Gary, compete in the PGA Tour Champions’ TimberTech Championship. His post on Thursday mentioned his growing friendship with Trump since he was elected president in 2016.

In it, Nicklaus said he has seen “a resolve and a determination to do the right thing for our country. He has delivered on his promises. He’s worked for the average person. In my opinion, he has been more diverse than any President I have seen and has tried to help people from all walks of live – equally.”

On Friday, Nicklaus added that he doesn’t know “whether anybody could have done any different than what (Trump has) done on the (coronavirus pandemic.) Has he saved millions of lives or has he cost us lives? Nobody is going to know that. If you’re objective about it, nobody knows that. I think he’s done the best he can with the people he’s had.”

COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the United States, with more than 88,500 new coronavirus cases, a record for one day. The more than 234,000 deaths in the U.S. lead the world. Nicklaus, though, believes the numbers are inflated.

“I don’t think the deaths are a correct number,” he said Friday. “I hate to say that.”

Nicklaus told a story about two people he knows whose parents died from something other than COVID and, according to Nicklaus, they were asked if the cause of death could be changed to COVID and declined.

“The hospital gets more money with COVID death than they do another death,’ Nicklaus said. “I’m sure there’s been a lot of that.

Jack and Barbara tested positive for COVID in March. Jack said he experienced a sore throat and cough and Barbara was asymptomatic. He said he is feeling fine.

“Sure I was concerned,” Jack said. “I took hydroxychloroquine. Gone in two days.”

Nicklaus said that he does not always agree with what Trump says and his incessant tweeting and said he has told Trump as much.

But … “You’re not voting for a personality, it’s not a personality contest.”

“I think he’s been great,” Nicklaus added. “He calls me every once in a while to see how I think he’s doing. I think he knows I’m sort of a neutral sounding board for him and every once in awhile I’ll say, ‘Do you really need to tweet that?’ ”

President Donald Trump tweeted this photo after golfing with local golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019

The first time the subject of Trump’s tweets came up was when Nicklaus and Trump were golfing together early in Trump’s presidency. Trump asked Jack: “How do you think I’m doing?”

Nicklaus said, “I think you’re doing great, I think your policies are great, I love what you’re doing. But … ‘why do you tweet such insignificant stuff? Why do you want to do that?’ ”

Trump said to him, “Not very presidential is it?” And Nicklaus replied, “No, and you are the president.”

“I just can’t help myself,” Trump told Nicklaus.

“But that’s him,” Nicklaus said Friday. “That’s what he is. He’s not a phony. He is what he is. He doesn’t hide what he is. Has he made some mistakes in life? Sure, everybody makes some mistakes in life. Do I think his plusses outweigh the negatives? Absolutely.

“I’m very bullish on America and the American dream, but I just think the other side is going to get taken over in socialism. I don’t think we need socialism in this country, it’s never worked anyplace else in the world and we don’t need that here.”

Jack Nicklaus and Don Shula in 2017 the night Nicklaus received the Don Shula Sports Legend Award.

Nicklaus mentioned how Trump has benefited children’s hospitals, including the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

“I wrote him a letter as it relates to stand-alone children’s hospitals and he wasn’t aware it wasn’t in the CARES Act,” Nicklaus said, referring to money awarded through the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security act. “So, he just put his people on it to check it out and then they figure out how to get money.

“I talked to him about all the children’s miracles hospitals and he’s been very supportive. He doesn’t turn around and give you money. He turns around and gives it to the proper person, let them go to the proper channels because he doesn’t want to do something nobody else would do.”

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