While Tiger Woods may someday eclipse his totals, the title of greatest golfer of all time now belongs to Jack Nicklaus. “The Golden Bear” exerted a mastery over the game – and his opponents – that hadn’t been witnessed until Woods (Great American Things, June 19, 2009) came along.
Nicklaus made his debut on the professional scene during the heyday of Arnold Palmer (Great American Things, July 2, 2009), whose charisma alone helped open up golf from a country club sport to one for a mass audience. For a time Nicklaus was “the bad guy” who often bested the people’s champion. It took years, a patient temperament, and continuous displays of his prodigious talent to win over America.
It would take paragraphs to list all of Nicklaus’s accomplishments, so here’s a quick summary. He’s won 18 major titles and finished in the top five 56 times. He accumulated 73 PGA Tour victories. He’s designed almost 350 golf courses, in the U.S. and 34 countries around the world. Naturally, he’s in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and there’s a Jack Nicklaus Museum on the campus of his alma mater, Ohio State University.
Author Rick Reilly said this about Jack Nicklaus: “He was not homespun like Sam Snead, funny like Lee Trevino. His pants didn’t need hitching like Palmer’s. Instead, he won over America with pure, unbleached excellence.”