Shortly after the Pope had apologized to the Jewish People for the treatment of Jews by the Catholic Church over the years, Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, sent a proposal to the College of Cardinals for a friendly game of golf to be played between the two leaders or their representatives to demonstrate the friendship and ecumenical spirit shared by the Catholics and the Jews.
The Pope then met with his College of Cardinals to discuss the proposal.
“Your Holiness,” said one of the Cardinals, “Mr. Sharon wants to challenge you to a game of golf to show that you are old and unable to compete. I am afraid that this would tarnish our image in the world.”
The Pope thought about this and since he had never held a golf club in his life asked, “Don’t we have a Cardinal to represent me?”
“None who plays golf very well,” a Cardinal replied. “But,” he added, “there is a man named Jack Nicklaus, an American golfer, who is a devout Catholic. We can offer to make him a Cardinal, and then ask him to play Mr. Sharon as your personal representative. In addition to showing our spirit of cooperation, we will also win the match.”
Everyone agreed that this was a great idea. The call was made. Of course, Nicklaus was honored and agreed to play as the Pope’s representative.
The day after the match, Nicklaus reported to the Vatican to inform the Pope of the result. “This is Cardinal Nicklaus. I have some good news and some bad news, Holiness,” said the golfer.
“Tell me the good news, Cardinal Nicklaus,” said the Pope.
“Well, Your Holiness, I don’t like to brag, but even though I have played some pretty terrific rounds of golf in my life, this was the best I have ever played, by far. I must have been inspired from above. My drives were long and true, my irons were accurate and purposeful, and my putting was perfect. With all due respect, my play was truly miraculous.
“How can there be bad news?” the Pope asked.
Nicklaus sighed, “I lost by three strokes to Rabbi Tiger Woods.”