TAMPA, Fla. -- One by one, the Tampa students stood in front of Jack Nicklaus at Rogers Park Golf Course and tried to do what the 18-time champion once did better than anyone on the planet.
They tried to hit a golf ball: far, straight, with poise and strength.
Freedom High School senior Helena Noel, who hopes to go pro one day, was soaking it all in.
“I hit my driver 250, 260 yards,” Noel said. “I wanna ask him how much farther he could have hit it with modern technology.”
Nicklaus eventually told her with a chuckle. The six-time Master champ would have hit it farther than anyone else. But the 78-year-old was not just here to give golf tutorials or brag about his illustrious past.
As part of his First Tee program, Nicklaus wanted the students to also excel at life.
“When they get out here, they blossom,” Nicklaus said. “They find something they like to do instead of getting on the streets and doing something they shouldn’t be doing.”
Kids are his focus now. He told them to be bold, brave and believe in themselves.
“You can make a lot of putts. But none of those putts are worth what these kids are worth," said Nicklaus.
As he watched the kids laugh, clap, take good swings and bad, the man known as the Golden Bear smiled.
“These kids are going to do all right," said Nicklaus.