Just How Fat was 'Fat Jack'?

They called him Fat Jack. Ohio Fats. Another nickname for Jack Nicklaus when he first hit the pro ranks was "Baby Beef." But just how much did Jack Nicklaus weigh when his fellow pros — and newspaper headline writers — were calling him those names?

Nicklaus usually weighed around 210 pounds when he was being called "Fat Jack." He might have gotten closer to 220 at times. That 210 number probably sounds low, because 210-pounders today are quite common, especially among Americans. (Nicklaus is 5-foot-10.)

On the pro golf circuit of the early 1960s, Nicklaus did, in fact, stand out as a burly boy, a husky fellow, a guy still carrying his baby fat. He appeared, by the standards of the time, chubby.

And his fellow pros let him hear about. So, too, did fans. Sometimes it was just "the boys" zinging Nicklaus, who was, after all, the new kid in town who had started kicking their butts on the golf course. But the catcalls about Nicklaus' physique often carried mean tones — undertones, overtones — too, especially from golf spectators who didn't like this new kid challenging Arnold Palmer or other favorites.

A headline example from 1966 over a UPI story about the upcoming Open Championship: "Fat Jack Seeks 2nd British Title."

A May 11, 1963, AP article quotes Doug Sanders asking, "What did Ohio Fats shoot today?" Told that Nicklaus had a 69, Sanders said, "Several weeks ago it was Palmer, now it's Baby Beef."

In June of 1963, The Sporting News wrote that Nicklaus weighed 210 pounds. In September of that year, another UPI article referred to Nicklaus as "burly," and quoted Julius Boros saying, "... If I have to lose ... it is a pleasure to lose to Ohio Fats."

(By the way, the examples we are citing and quoting are just a small handful of the print references to Nicklaus' weight. Such discussions, and such jibes about his weight, were absolutely routine on tour and in all forms of media throughout the 1960s.)

An April 9, 1964, article stated that Nicklaus, "known on the circuit as Ohio Fats," is down to "a compact 210 pounds." Which certainly implies that Nicklaus was heavier than 210 previously. We've also seen the figure of 219 pounds a few places.

But in 1969, as he was beginning to close in on age 30, Nicklaus decided it was time to slim down. He never got skinny, but he dropped weight. Nicklaus had recently lost 15 pounds over three weeks. He was following a Weight Watchers plan, but that diet company was so new at that point the reporter didn't understand it was even a company:

"I've always said that before I reach 30, I'd like to pare down a little," (Nicklaus) said. "After 30, it's very difficult to lose weight." Since Nicklaus was 29, the fast came just in time. Employing what he called a "weight-watcher's" diet, he lost 15 pounds in three weeks. The puffy inner-tube around the top of his belt disappeared. His ample bottom shrank. One of his chins vanished. "Nicklaus weighs just a little under 190 now," said a close friend, "and he has about a 35-inch waist. Of course, he's still wearing a lot of his old clothes and he walks around looking like an unmade bed, but he never looked better, really."
"Emerging from his blubbery coccoon," the article's writer insultingly said, "Nicklaus began immediately to throw his weight around. He won two consecutive tournaments and led a third for three days."

As always, one of the best takes on Nicklaus' 1969 weight loss was from Chi Chi Rodriguez, who said: "The new Nicklaus looks like the old Nicklaus to me. I think maybe I liked him better before his pot (belly) went to pot."

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