Jack Nicklaus is a retired professional golfer who played as one of the world's best for over forty years. He had his professional debut in 1961 after having been the best amateur for some time. Nicklaus began playing in the senior category starting in 1990 when he was old enough, and played for another 10 years. He golfed in his final U.S. Open in 2000, the same year as Tiger Woods' famous showing at Pebble Beach. He officially retired in 2005.
Nicklaus is one of the most decorated athletes ever. He has received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Sports Illustrated named him Individual Male Athlete of the 20th Century, and ESPN has called him one of the 10 best athletes of all time. During his career, he gained a total of 117 wins, including 18 majors. He married Barbara Bash in 1960, and they have 5 children. Nicklaus currently resides in North Palm Beach, Florida.
From an early age, Nicklaus was a star on the course. He took up golf at 10 years old, and by age twelve he had won 5 separate Ohio State Junior titles. He won 22 U.S. titles as an amateur. He debated over going professional for a long time, as he held a strong desire to retain his "amateur" status. In 1961, he decided to make the jump.
Nicklaus had an immediate impact on the game, being named "Rookie of the Year" in 1962, winning his first Masters and PGA Tour titles in 1963, and ranking first in money winnings in 1964. From there, the success kept coming. "The Golden Bear" won his final Masters in 1986, becoming the oldest golfer ever to do so in the process. In 1988, Nicklaus became the first player to ever break the $5 million career winnings mark.
In 1990, he became eligible to play in the seniors' category. He won his first ever seniors' tournament, and concluded his career in the most fitting way imaginable: passing the torch to the next all-time great golfer, Tiger Woods. At the Pebble Beach U.S. Open in 2000, he completed his final U.S. Open hours before Tiger Woods would step up to the first tee to begin his "perfection at Pebble." Nicklaus continued to play in tournaments sporadically until 2005, when he made his official retirement from the sport of professional golf.
Nicklaus' plethora of titles and awards are what separate him from the other great golfers in history. The sheer number of them make him truly one of a kind. He played in a record 154 consecutive major championships, from his first ever in 1957 as an amateur in the U.S. Open until 1998. He won 73 tours, placed second in 58, took first place in 118 tournaments worldwide, made 21 holes-in-one, and earned over $5 million in winnings alone on the PGA tour.
In majors, he finished in the top-ten an astonishing 73 times, taking first in 18 of them, a simply mind-boggling number. He also has the most Masters wins of anybody in history, with 6.
He has been awarded a Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and won the Lincoln medal in 2018.
In addition to his golf accolades, Jack Nicklaus is also well-known for his terrific work as a philanthropist. He and his wife founded the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation in 2004, which has already raised over $100 million.
He attended Ohio State University from 1957-1961, where he met and married his wife Barbara. Though he initially planned to become a pharmacist like his father, once his golf talents became apparent, he switched tracks. He ended up being a few credits shy of graduating, but was granted a degree in 1972 all the same. He and Barbara had their first child, Jack Jr., shortly before Nicklaus made the decision to go professional to better support his family. Barbara and Jack have a total of five children, and a number of grandchildren.
One of Jack's idols growing up was Bobby Jones, who was famed for being an incredible amateur golfer. As such, Nicklaus was reluctant to turn professional. To go pro would mean giving up his goal of emulating one of his role models. He understood, however, that to support his family and truly become the best, he would need to devote the time and energy that only a professional golfer can manage.
Debates over the "GOATs" rage on in sports such as baseball and football, and golf is no different. Some believe Arnold Palmer to be the best still. Others are fans of Woods. From an objective statistical standpoint though, it is impossible to believe that anybody is as good as Nicklaus was. 118 tournament wins, 6 masters wins, a 40-year career. The accolades make him objectively the best to ever play, simply put.
Jack Nicklaus began golfing at the age of ten years old, and quickly became very good. He won the Ohio Open, his first major golf tournament, in 1956, and actually won 29 out of the 30 tournaments he entered as an amateur. When he was 14 he met one of his role models, golfing star Arnold Palmer, and by age 16 he had qualified for his first U.S. Amateur.
Though Nicklaus has retired from professional golf, he is still very active in the golfing community. He has a long tradition of shaking the hand of the Memorial Tournament winner, for example. He also appears on television to provide commentary on major tournaments, owns a golf course design company, and has collaborated with club designers on occasion.