Jack William Nicklaus, born January 19, 1940, is a now-retired golfer considered by almost everyone to be the greatest player ever in his sport, at least in career value.note Known simply as The Golden Bear. Much like Michael Jordan in the NBA or Wayne Gretzky in the NHL, Nicklaus has broken so many records that if we were to list them here, the reader of this article would be here forever. Unquestionably his most notable record is his 18 major championship wins. For more of his accomplishments, see The Other Wiki's list of his records. On top of that, he has designed an ungodly number of golf courses, both during and after his playing career; according to TOW, at one point his company was responsible for designing 1 out of every 100 courses worldwide. Several of Nicklaus' designs are annual staples in high-level tournament play, such as The Memorial Tournament (Muirfield Village Golf Club) and the Heritage (Harbour Town Golf Links), as well as updates to other legendary venues such as Pebble Beach Golf Links and Augusta National Golf Club. Extremely well liked by golf fans all over for his excellent playing, his clear love and dedication to the game, and his dedication to his family (he's been married to his first and only wife for 56 years and counting).
He first made a significant name for himself as a college golfer at his hometown school of Ohio State, winning two U.S. Amateur championships and an NCAA title while there, and also finishing second in the U.S. Open in 1960 to future rival Arnold Palmer (setting that tournament's low score for amateurs in the process which remained unbroken until 2019 by Viktor Hovland). After leaving OSU just short of graduation to turn pro, he scored his first career win in the 1962 U.S. Open, beating Palmer in a playoff. Within four years, he would win each of the other majors at least once: the Masters in 1963, 1965 and 1966 (becoming the first player ever to win the event in consecutive years), the PGA Championship in 1963, The Open Championship in 1966, and the U.S. Open again in 1967. He went on to win eight more majors in the '70s and two in 1980. Then, he came out of nowhere to win the Masters one final time in 1986, becoming the oldest player ever to win that event. When he became eligible for the Senior PGA Tour (now known as PGA Tour Champions) in 1990, he played an abbreviated schedule due to family and business commitments, but still won eight major championships on that tour, a record that stood until Bernhard Langer surpassed it in 2017. Incidentally, his first win on that tour was also a major (The Tradition in 1990).
Additionally, he played a major role in making the Ryder Cup, a biennial team competition between the USA and Europe, into the golf spectacle it is today. First, a gesture of sportsmanship in the 1969 Cup is one of the competition's iconic moments. More significantly, he was one of the key people behind the creation of Team Europe. Originally, the USA's opponent was a British team, which expanded after World War II to include Ireland. However, by the 1970s, the event grew increasingly noncompetitive, and Nicklaus strongly lobbied for the GB&I team to be expanded to include all of Europe, a change that was made in 1979.
Cool fact: Shortly after his final retirement as a player in 2005, the Royal Bank of Scotland placed his likeness on a commemorative £5 note. This made him the first person outside the Royal Family to ever appear on a British banknote.
As always, you can read That Other Wiki for more detail about him.
- The Ace: See the records on The Other Wiki? Nicklaus either set them or broke them throughout his career, to say nothing of his outstanding skills. Also, after Nicklaus won the Masters in 1965 with a record low score (since broken), none other than Bobby Jones, the tournament founder and an all-time great player himself, said Nicklaus played "a game with which I am not familiar."
- Badass Boast: Two memorable examples on back-to-back holes in the 1986 Masters: on the par five 15th, Jack asked his son and caddie Jackie, "How far would a three go?" on his second shot. His son thought he was asking if a three iron was enough to reach the green; Jack was actually asking if an eagle (three strokes on that hole) would give him a chance to contend for the win. After smothering the flag with his shot and making the eagle putt, Jack striped his tee shot on the 16th. Jackie pleaded the shot to "Be right", and without even looking at the ball, Jack replied, "It is." Jack was within inches of a hole in one, tapping in for birdie; one more on 17 would seal the victory.
- Didn't See That Coming: His win in the 1986 Masters. He hadn't won on tour in nearly two years, hadn't won a major in six years, and at 46 was clearly past his prime, though still more than capable of winning on his day. And he was four shots out of the lead going into the final round, with past and/or future major championship winners Greg Norman, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Price, Tom Kite, and Tom Watson ahead of him. Nicklaus shot 65 (including a six-under 30 on his final nine holes with a bogey) while the rest of the contenders either faded or collapsed, giving him perhaps the most improbable win of his career.
- Nice Guy: Many, many examples, but two will do for here:
- At his first Ryder Cup in 1969, he played the final singles match against Team Great Britain'snote Tony Jacklin. The competition had been fairly ill-tempered by golf standards, with both teams' captains having to calm their players down on the second day. Nicklaus and Jacklin played the final match with their teams level on 15 1/2 points. They were dead even going into the final hole. In the end, Nicklaus conceded a very missable Jacklin putt to halve their match, leaving the Cup dead even for the first time in history. As the previous holders, Team USA retained the Cup, but Nicklaus' gesture remains one of the sport's most memorable moments.
- In 1981, Nicklaus went to a Canadian golf club for an exhibition appearance. While there, he met Mike Weir, an 11-year-old boy who caddied and worked in the club's pro shop. Weir played golf left-handed, and in the following years, he got advice that he should switch to right-handed play. Fast forward to 1984. The now-teenage Weir decided to write Nicklaus asking for advice; Nicklaus immediately wrote back telling him to keep playing left-handed if he felt comfortable with it. Weir stayed with left-handed play, and grew up to join Nicklaus as a Masters champion in 2003.note
- Red Baron: The Golden Bear. Originally came from his blond hair and his hefty build in his early days as a pro; the nickname stuck even though he slimmed down considerably by the late 1960s. Now so closely identified with him that on TOW, "The Golden Bear" redirects to his page.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Most notably the blue to Arnold Palmer's red. Later the blue to Lee Trevino's red.