Jack William Nicklaus was born Jan. 21, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio. He grew up in Upper Arlington, a
suburb of Columbus located just a few miles from
the Ohio State University. Nicklaus played various sports growing up including baseball, basketball, tennis and track. He eventually settled on golf, a game he first played at age 10.
Nicklaus' quickly became one of the top players in junior golf. He qualified for his first national tournament, the U.S. Junior Amateur, at 13. The following year, Nicklaus first met Arnold Palmer at the Ohio State Amateur in Toledo. At 15, Nicklaus qualified for his first U.S. Amateur, and he won the Ohio Open at 16 against a field of mostly professional golfers.
In 1957, Nicklaus played in his first of 44 straight U.S. Opens. Also in 1957, Nicklaus enrolled at Ohio State. He planned on becoming a pharmacist like his father, but golf would eventually become his profession.
Nicklaus’ amateur career really took off in 1959 when he won the first of two U.S. Amateur titles.
Nicklaus gained even more national attention in 1960 when he finished second at the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills in Denver. Nicklaus played the final 36 holes with Ben Hogan, and only Palmer’s heroic Sunday 65 was enough to beat Nicklaus by two strokes in what some consider the greatest major championship ever played. Nicklaus won his second U.S. Amateur in 1961 at Pebble Beach, and he became the first player to win both the U.S. Amateur and NCAA individual title in the same year.
Professional golf was not the lucrative job it is today, and Nicklaus seriously contemplated remaining an amateur like his hero Bobby Jones, but ultimately decided the best competition was in the professional ranks.