Presented annually since 1955, the USGAs top award is given in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. The award seeks to recognize a person who emulates Jones spirit, his personal qualities and his attitude toward the game and its players. It will be presented on Feb. 5 at the Associations Annual Meeting in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Now 47, Price was the best player in the game in the 1990s, winning 15 PGA Tour events and another 12 times internationally. His highlight season was 1994 when he won six times, including top finishes at the British Open and PGA Championship, on his way to PGA Tour Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year. In his overall professional career, he has won 18 times in the U.S. and 23 times internationally.
He has been a professional golfer since 1977 and has ranked among the sports top 50 leading money leaders for the last 18 seasons. He has published books on the golf swing, built golf courses and learned to fly his own helicopter and recently started his own golf apparel company. He also is the only golfer to be ranked among the top 50 of the world rankings since its inception in 1986.
More noticeable, however, is the way Price has shown his personal qualities in his daily routine, with a manner befitting the phrase, Its nice to be important, but its more important to be nice.
To receive this award is a great honor for me, said Price. I have always respected and admired Bob Jones, not only for the way he played golf, but also because of the way he conducted himself both on and off the golf course. Throughout my career, I have strived to achieve the etiquette and sportsmanship that Bob Jones exemplified.
In 2002, Price was the first winner of the ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award from the Golf Writers Association of America for his consistent and thoughtful cooperation and accommodation to the media. Later that year, he received the annual Payne Stewart Award from the Tour for his respect for the game, his professional conduct and his commitment to charities.
He is as decent and nice to the little old ladies in the parking lot when the TV cameras are nowhere near as he is when hes attempting to close the deal late on a Sunday afternoon before thick galleries, wrote veteran golf writer Bob Verdi on the eve of Prices 2003 induction in to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
I think the players recognize what a great guy he is, says Davis Love III of his fellow Tour player. People always ask whos the nicest guy on tour, and Nick Prices name always comes up.
He stood by his long-time friend and caddie, Jeff Squeeky Medlin, while he fought a losing battle with leukemia that came to an end in 1997. He shared the spotlight in happier days with Medlin at the 1994 British Open at Turnberry, Scotland, when the two walked arm-in-arm on to the final green to a thunderous ovation before two-putting for par and the win.
He supports charities that benefit children within Palm Beach County and his native homelands of South Africa and Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia. In addition, he formed the Nick Price Junior Golf Foundation in 1997 to support junior golf development in Zimbabwe, a land of 12 million people that is torn with strife and under a strict one-party rule..
He is committed to bettering the life for those around him, particularly his family.
Just last summer when the family ' wife, Sue; Gregory (13), Robyn Frances (11) and Kimberly Rae (8) ' was having a well-earned vacation, Price surprisingly extended the vacation by opting out of the PGA Championship several days before the event.
Nick is one of those people who has a firm grasp on whats important, says Sue. In his soul, he thinks about others. I rarely have seen him become abrupt with anybody. He just wants to give the best of himself in whatever he does.
A resident in the U.S. since the early 1980s, he lives comfortably in Hobe Sound, Fla., but his roots are in Africa.
Born in Durban, South Africa, to English parents, Nick was raised by his mother in Zimbabwe. His father died when he was 10 before getting a chance to introduce him to the game of golf. His older brother, Tim, showed him the game, giving him a left-handed 5-iron for his first club.
The two spent countless hours chipping golf balls through their mothers backyard garden while pretending they were on the best golf layouts and playing for major titles.
On his first trip to the United States, as a 17-year-old, Price won the Junior World Championship in San Diego. He turned professional three years later, in 1977, but in between he learned never to take his good fortune for granted.
During that time, he served 18 months in Rhodesias Air Force, fighting in a civil war that would end in 1980.
The service taught me that golf is not the be-all and end-all in life and that I am fortunate to do something I love, Price says.
Having achieved success on both the European and South African Tours between 1978 and 1982, earning his first four wins, he ventured to America where he earned his PGA Tour card for the 1983 season. Later that summer, he edged out Jack Nicklaus to win the World Series of Golf event. Along with the win, came a 10-year exemption on Tour. But there were lean years ahead and a time when he came within a week of running out of money to stay on Tour.
Somehow he held on, believing that his rebuilt swing would pay dividends. It did, beginning with a win at the 1991 GTE Byron Nelson Classic. He won the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, and then won it again in 1994 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
His last win was at the 2002 MasterCard Colonial, a year in which he topped $2 million in earnings for the first time and finished fifth in scoring average.
He sees himself playing into his 50s, and would like to add to his win total and accomplishments in the game. He has Tour wins in each of the last three decades, and he is one of only seven players since 1945 to capture consecutive majors.
No matter what the next few years bring, Price has left his mark on the game he loves.
Like Ben Crenshaw (the 1991 Jones Award winner), hes a role model that a lot of the players out here need to pay attention to, says Love.
When I see a young guy who has shot 78 giving a signed ball to a kid who is there with his dad, thats huge, says Price. Thats what golf is all about.
PAST WINNERS OF THE USGA BOB JONES AWARD:
1955 Francis Ouimet
1956 William C. Campbell
1957 Mildred D. Zaharias
1958 Margaret Curtis
1959 Findlay S. Douglas
1960 Charles Evans Jr.
1961 Joseph B. Carr
1962 Horton Smith
1963 Patty Berg
1964 Charles Coe
1965 Glenna Collett Vare
1966 Gary Player
1967 Richard S. Tufts
1968 Robert B. Dickson
1969 Gerald H. Micklem
1970 Roberto De Vicenzo
1971 Arnold Palmer
1972 Michael Bonallack
1973 Gene Littler
1974 Byron Nelson
1975 Jack Nicklaus
1976 Ben Hogan
1977 Joseph C. Dey Jr.
1978 Bing Crosby and Bob Hope
1979 Tom Kite
1980 Charles Yates
1981 JoAnne Carner
1982 William J. Patton
1983 Maureen Ruttle Garrett
1984 R. Jay Sigel
1985 Fuzzy Zoeller
1986 Jess Sweetser
1987 Tom Watson
1988 Isaac B. Grainger
1989 Chi Chi Rodriguez
1990 Peggy Kirk Bell
1991 Ben Crenshaw
1992 Gene Sarazen
1993 P.J. Boatwright Jr.
1994 Lewis Oehmig
1995 Herbert Warren Wind
1996 Betsy Rawls
1997 Fred Brand Jr.
1998 Nancy Lopez
1999 Edgar Updegraff
2000 Barbara McIntire
2001 Thomas Cousins
2002 Judy Rankin
2003 Carol Semple Thompson
2004 Jackie Burke Jr.
2005 Nick Price