Book excerpt: White Fang and the Golden Bear by Joe Wessel, Bill Chastain, and Jack Nicklaus

Former Florida State football player Joe Wessel recounts the story of taking his dad along for a round of golf with Jack Nicklaus at Augusta National. Bill Chastain, a longtime Tampa Tribune sportswriter, is the book's co-author. Here is an excerpt, reprinted with permission from the publisher, Skyhorse Publishing. 

More family time ranked at the top of the list of added benefits from leaving the coaching profession. In addition to the time I got to spend with Mary Gayle and our young children, moving back to Florida and being a businessman created more time for me to spend with Dad.

Joe WesselWhile I'd been away from Florida for thirteen years, I'd been back to my home state for recruiting visits on many occasions, particularly the Tampa Bay area, which ranked as a hotbed for football talent. Having recruited there allowed me to grow familiar with the Cigar City. I knew the area would be a great place to live. And living there turned out to be everything I had hoped it would be, particularly given the proximity to Dad.

Being able to observe Dad mellow with age brought me a warm feeling. As I've said, he had always preached about not sweating the small stuff. Even though that sounded nice, Dad in fact always did sweat the small stuff. All perfectionists do. I guess the older we get, the more we realize the small stuff isn't as big as we made it out to be. Dad got in the habit of making a lot of visits to Tampa. My mother rarely accompanied him. She did not share his enthusiasm about driving or flying from Miami to Tampa, even though the distance isn't great by either plane or car. She actually got sedentary the older she got, which made traveling more difficult for her and, therefore, curbed her enthusiasm to do so. Dad, on the other hand, would always be up for a trip.

Other than visits with the grandkids, golf would be the big magnet for both of us when Dad traveled to Tampa. He loved playing at the Avila Golf and Country Club, my home course in Tampa at the time. Though Dad and I had not physically been together that much prior to my leaving the coaching profession, we'd been together a lot over the years in conversations, thoughts, and prayers. Many times, life's struggles had brought us together through all the disappointments, the ups and the downs. He had always been there for me to serve as a sounding board or dispatch sound advice. During those times when I had been struggling, he often told me, "Son, you are behind a few, and ahead of most in this world!'' To this day, I use this Bill Chastainsaying a lot. I think it helps me and others understand how good life in the United States is for us as compared to other places in the world.

During one of Dad's trips to Tampa, we were sitting around my house, and the old Bull's Eye putter caught his attention. He asked me where I’d gotten the putter. While I told him, he examined the putter, noticing flecks of white paint on the flange during his inspection. He vaguely remembered a story about Jack Nicklaus and the fact he had not been able to locate two of his famous putters, one of them being a Bull's Eye known as "White Fang.'' Through our conversation, the seed got planted that I might be in possession of one of Nicklaus's prized missing putters.

For more about White Fang and the Golden Bear: A Father-and-Son Journey on the Golf Course and Beyond by Joe Wessel, Bill Chastain, and Jack Nicklaus, and other books, please visit the Skyhorse Publishing website.
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