Who Is Jack Nicklaus?
Born on January 21, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio, golfer Jack Nicklaus won two U.S. Amateur titles while attending Ohio State University. After turning pro in 1961, the "Golden Bear" won six Masters Tournaments, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Open titles and three British Opens for a record 18 major championships. He has since expanded his business interests and earned renown as the head of a prominent golf course design company.
Jack William Nicklaus was born on January 21, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio, to parents Charlie and Helen. Introduced to golf when his father was seeking to rehabilitate a broken ankle, Nicklaus proved a prodigy in the sport, shooting a 51 over nine holes at Scioto Country Club at age 10.
Tutored by Scioto club pro Jack Grout, Nicklaus won the Ohio Open at age 16 and the International Jaycee Junior Golf Tournament at 17. As a student at Ohio State University, he won the U.S. Amateur title in 1959 and 1961, as well as the NCAA Championship in '61. Nicklaus also served notice to the game's top players by finishing second at the 1960 U.S. Open with an amateur-record score of 282. He turned pro in November 1961.
Nicklaus quickly emerged as one of the most dominant players on the PGA Tour. Nicknamed the "Golden Bear," he had the power to smash booming drives from the tee, but also demonstrated an impressive touch on the green and seemingly impenetrable nerves. Nicklaus won his first U.S. Open title in 1962, and claimed his first Masters Tournament and PGA Championship the following year. In 1966, he nabbed the only major title missing from his collection by winning the British Open.
Nicklaus surpassed Bobby Jones's career record of 10 major titles in 1973 and was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame the following year, but he was far from finished. He won both the Masters and the PGA championship in 1975, and notched his sixth season with at least two major victories in 1980 by capturing the PGA title and the U.S. Open. The Golden Bear's last major title may have been his most memorable: Beginning the final round of the 1986 Masters four strokes behind leader Greg Norman, the 46-year-old Nicklaus surged to a sizzling six-under-30 back nine to don the Green Jacket a record sixth time.
Nicklaus joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1990 and competed on a limited basis in the regular PGA Tour until 2005. Along with the six Masters victories, he captured five PGA Championships, four U.S. Open titles and three British Opens for a record 18 major championships. Nicklaus also won six Australian Open titles and was named PGA Player of the Year five times, a collection of hardware and accolades that left many believing he was the greatest player in the game's history.
Nicklaus branched out to other business endeavors while still competing as an active player, notably taking a serious interest in the creation and design of golf courses. His company, Nicklaus Design, has developed hundreds of courses across more than 35 countries.
The Golden Bear has also launched wine and apparel companies and authored multiple books. Along with his wife, Barbara, he established the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation and dedicated the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2004. In November 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
Nicklaus continues to serve as an ambassador of the sport that made him one of the world's most famous and beloved athletes. He enjoyed a memorable trip to the pre-Masters Par 3 Contest in 2018, when his 15-year-old grandson Gary stepped into the competition and drilled the first ace of his young career. "My wins, that's OK, but to have your grandson make a hole-in-one and watch him do it, man, that's amazing," he said afterward.
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