Nicklaus, 66, added a touch of sports celebrity to Wednesday's hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. He was there to tout the importance of character education, in which kids learn respect, courtesy, responsibility and other core values.
But some of those in the packed room came hoping for something else -- an autograph. They got their chance when the committee had to halt the hearing for a House vote.
Nicklaus obliged as Hill staffers and memorabilia collectors formed a line. He signed golf balls, photos, flags, and a Sports Illustrated issue with him splashed on the cover.
'Part of the life, huh?' said the smiling committee chairman, Rep. Howard McKeon, a Republican from California.
Nicklaus has won more major golf championships than anyone.
When the hearing resumed, he shared a wink with another sports figure -- Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., who headed a very successful football program at the University of Nebraska.
Nicklaus is the honorary chairman of The First Tee, which uses the game of golf to instill values in young people. Since he last testified before the committee in 2002, Nicklaus said the program's membership has increased more than six times over. It now reaches 760,000 children and is being incorporated into school gym classes.
'Golf is a wonderful vehicle for teaching life lessons,' Nicklaus said. 'But sometimes it is the people you meet in the game of golf that guide you to the most important lessons. Not every child gets the kind of grounding and positive reinforcement at home and school that I was fortunate to receive. And that is why
programs like First Tee are so important.'
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