Jack Nicklaus’ final major championship win had a profound impact on Israel DeHerrera.
“I became a golf fan because of the 1986 Masters,” DeHerrera said. “I liked golf, but I vividly remember him putting out and I ran to the golf course. I didn’t watch the others finish. I wanted to play so bad.”
DeHerrera, an Emmy Award-winning coordinating producer for the Golf Channel, unveils his latest project tonight at 9. Jack, a three-part series on Nicklaus’ career, follows Golf Central Live from the Masters.
Jack was a labor of love for DeHerrera, and he produced it through nearly 100 interviews and looking through hundreds of hours of old television footage. DeHerrera’s crew also did seven sessions with Nicklaus, each around 90 minutes.
“It was something I was very appreciative of his time,” DeHerrera said. “I think once he saw the amount of time we did on research, he kind of opened up.”
The three parts are done in chronological order. The first segment, “Prodigy,” focuses on Nicklaus’ early career and the influence his father, Charlie, and wife, Barbara, had on him.
“Prime,” which airs Monday night, covers the majority of Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship wins and 73 PGA Tour victories. “Pinnacle,” set for Tuesday, covers his legacy as an ambassador for the game and his business and philanthropic endeavors.
Nicklaus is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time, and the film includes interviews with athletes considered the best in their sport, including Wayne Gretzky, Richard Petty and Jerry Rice. The film is narrated by actor Tom Selleck.
DeHerrera, who also produced the highly acclaimed Arnie documentary for Golf Channel, said he learned a lot about Nicklaus the man. Nicklaus and the late Arnold Palmer enjoyed many parallels in their careers, he said.
“One thing I found out is he’s really underrated as a human being,” DeHerrera said of Nicklaus. “Arnold was underrated as a golfer and Jack as a human being. Jack followed Arnold as a humanitarian. They don’t remember how great Arnie was as a golfer. It’s an interesting kind of mix there.”
DeHerrera made an attempt to track down someone who had been at each of Nicklaus’ 18 major wins. He wound up with interesting stories, such as the marshal on the last hole of the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.
The one thing that comes across, DeHerrera said, is that Nicklaus is perhaps the most mentally strong athlete ever. He said basketball player Michael Jordan and Nicklaus are very similar.
“It’s like a superpower,” DeHerrera said. “I don’t know of anyone else able to do those things. When he really needed something, he was able to make it happen. I heard that from a lot of people.”