Tiger Woods is world famous, and even many non-golfers know his name. The situation is different with Jack Nicklaus. But even without his name meaning anything to anyone, Nicklaus must also be accorded the status of a true golf legend.
Nicklaus was born on January 21, 1940 in the US city of Columbus, Ohio. In keeping with his age, which is now 82, his great days as a professional golfer are already decades behind him. But the "Golden Bear," as he is nicknamed, still leaves his mark today.
Nicklaus got the sports gene from his father Charlie. Charlie himself was a full-time pharmacist, but was an all-rounder when it came to ball games. He was equally at home on the soccer field as he was on the tennis court or the volleyball court. Finally, Charlie Nicklaus was also an enthusiastic golfer.
He passed on his passion for the game with the many clubs and the little ball to his son Jack. But he was initially more interested in basketball at high school, although he had also been playing golf since the age of ten. He reportedly completed his very first nine holes played with a remarkable score of 51 strokes.
He was playing at Scioto Country Club in Upper Arlington, Ohio, at the time, where he also met his future coach, club pro Jack Grout. Grout had played relatively successfully on the PGA Tour himself and was to become a lifelong coaching companion for Nicklaus.
At 12, Nicklaus scored the first of five consecutive Ohio State junior titles. At 13, he broke 70 for the first time at Scioto Country Club, playing a round of just 70 strokes, and became the youngest qualifier of the year for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
By the age of 13, Nicklaus had already earned a +3 handicap, the lowest in the Columbus area at the time. At age 15, Nicklaus played a round of 66 at Scioto Country Club, setting a new amateur course record.
He won the Ohio Open in 1956 at the age of 16. His phenomenal third round of 64 strokes in particular caused quite a stir, especially since he was competing against professionals. In total, Nicklaus won 27 tournaments in the Ohio region between the ages of 10 and 17.
At the 1960 US Open, the 20-year-old Nicklaus stayed two strokes under par 282 to finish second, just two strokes ahead of winner Arnold Palmer. That score remained the lowest ever by an amateur at the US Open until Viktor Hovland broke the record in 2019.
Late in 1961, at the age of 21, Jack Nicklaus decided to become a professional golfer. At that time, he had already been named the world's best amateur of the year by the renowned "Golf Digest" magazine for the third time in a row.
He started his career in 1962 with his first participation in the PGA Tour. Nicklaus won his first PGA tournament at the US Open in Oakmont that same year, where he won the 18-hole playoff against Arnold Palmer, who was tied for the lead.
The check for the winner at the time was for $17,500. In 2019, almost 60 years later, US Open winner Gary Woodlands received a little more: his victory was worth an incredible 2.25 million dollars.
Nicklaus racked up an unparalleled number of wins during his career, taking three Players Championships, three Open Championships (1966, 1970, 1978), four US Opens (1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980), six Australian Opens (1964, 1968, 1971, 1975, 1976 and 1978), five PGA Championships (1963, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1980) and six US Masters (1963, 1965-1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986).
In 1986, at the age of 46, he became the oldest player ever to win the Masters. This record still stands today. In 1974, Nicklaus was among the first golfers to be inducted into the newly created "World Golf Hall of Fame." "Sports Illustrated" awarded him the Sportsman of the Year award in 1978. In 1980, "BBC Sports" awarded him the Foreign Sports Personality of the Year Award.
Jack Nicklaus in his best years combined the very unusual combination in golf of being both one of the greatest putters of all time and the golfer with the longest stroke. He favored the power fade, which was his signature ball flight.
After many ups and downs, both sporting and personal, Nicklaus ended his professional golf career in 2005 at the Open Championship, played on July 15 at the storied St. Andrews golf course.
But Jack Nicklaus has not turned his back on golf since then, of course. In addition to writing instructional books on golf, his main interest since then has been designing golf courses. With the company he founded, "Nicklaus Design", he has already developed more than 425 golf courses all over the world.
Thus, he has left his mark on golf not only on the courses, but also with many courses worldwide.
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