Jack Nicklaus, nicknamed The Golden Bear, has long been considered one of the greatest golfers of all time. He holds the record for major tournaments won with 18, a record that has held since his last win in 1986. He has won 70 times on the PGA tour and was named the PGA Tour Player of the Year in 1967, 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976. In 1988, Golf Magazine celebrated Jack Nicklaus’ accomplishments by naming him the “Player of the Century”.
As a child Nicklaus knew he was destined for golf greatness and began dominating local and national junior golf events at a very young age. Inspired by his hero, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus went on to win the U.S. Amateur Championship in 1959 and 1961 and began his pro career in November of 1961. Already making a name for himself through his amateur success, The Golden Bear came blazing onto the professional scene by finishing 2nd place in the 1960 U.S. Open, only two strokes behind perennial favorite Arnold Palmer, and followed it up with an impressive fourth place finish at the 1961 U.S. Open.
Jack Nicklaus solidified his position as one of the world’s top golfers with his victory over Arnold Palmer at the 1962 U.S. Open at the Oakmount Country Club. Palmer’s large fan following, known as “Arny’s Army” was devastated by their hero’s loss and began to vilify Nicklaus. Jack Nicklaus was a departure from the gruff and emotional presence of Palmer, and cruised through the golf course with a calm, cool, and emotionless demeanor. His presence on the course exuded confidence and Jack Nicklaus never once doubted his dominant skill of the sport. The mid 60’s saw Jack Nicklaus continue his dominance with victories with wins at the Masters Tournament in 1963, 1965, and 1966 as well as a PGA Championship, Open Championship, and another U.S. Open championship.
At the turn of the decade, Jack Nicklaus adopted a more lean and colorful image. Often criticized for his pudginess and lack of flare, The Golden Bear shed some weight and began wearing more colorful attire on the course. Although his ordinary and mechanical appearance was changing, his play on the course continued to be as precise and machine like as ever. Jack Niclaus dominated the 1970s by winning seven major tournaments from 1970-1975, including a legendary performance at the 1975 Masters Tournament. On the last day of the tournament, Jack Nicklaus sank a 40-foot putt on the 16th hole that put him in first place, securing his fifth victory at Augusta National.
The later part of the decade saw other top golfers emerge and Jack Nicklaus’ skill began to diminish. He still played a prominent role on the PGA tour, including an infamous duel with America’s new golf star Tom Watson at the 1977 British Open, now known as the “Duel in the Sun”. He returned in 1978 to claim the British Open championship but afterwards, Jack Nicklaus had to return to the drawing board and reinvent his game if he hoped to compete with the emerging golf stars, such as Watson. After a few years of sinking in the rankings, Jack Nicklaus reemerged in 1980 with victories at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. By then, The Golden Bear was the game’s elder statesmen and major championships became few and far between. Jack Nicklaus returned for one more legendary performance with his victory at the 1986 Masters, one of the most memorable triumphs in golf history.
Jack Nicklaus was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame as part of their inaugural class in 1974. As well, a museum of his achievements opened in 2002 on the Ohio State University campus in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The Golden Bear continues to have a strong presence in the golf world and is one of only nine golfers to have the honor of being named an honorary starter at the Masters Tournament. In 2014, Jack Nicklaus received the Congressional Gold Medal from the United States House of Representatives to recognize his service to the nation in promoting excellent and golf sportsmanship. Over the course of half a century, Jack Nicklaus has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest golfers and athletes in history.Share this Article: