Jack Nicklaus’ Timeline

Jack: A Timeline of Greatness

Jack Nicklaus has been making headlines long before and long after he won 18 professional major championships. From his amateur days in Ohio to his successful life beyond golf, scroll through our timeline of the Golden Bear’s greatest achievements.
Golden Bear

Birth of a Champion

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.

Average prices in 1940's

Born January 21, 1940 in Columbus, Ohio.

Plays first round of golf at age 10, shoots 51 on first nine holes when he and his father actually kept score.

Meets Arnold Palmer for the first time at Ohio State Amateur at Sylvania C.C. in Toledo, Ohio (Nicklaus is 14 years old, Palmer 24).

Wins Ohio Open at age 16 against field of mostly professional golfers.

Misses cut in first U.S. Open start.

Ties for 41st in second U.S. Open start.

Ties for 12th in first PGA Tour event at the Rubber City Open Invitational at Firestone C.C. in Akron, Ohio.

Defeats Charlie Coe, 1 up, to win 1959 U.S. Amateur at Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Plays first round with Palmer at Athens C.C. in Athens, Ohio.

Low amateur at Masters (T-13).

While still an amateur, plays final 36 holes with Ben Hogan at U.S. Open and finishes second, two strokes behind Arnold Palmer.

Marries Barbara Bash in Columbus, spends part of honeymoon trip to NYC and Atlantic City playing Hershey C.C., Winged Foot and Pine Valley.

Wins NCAA individual title and second U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach.

For second year in a row earns low amateur honors at U.S. Open.
You dont know Jack
Golden Bear nickname was given to him by Australian sportswriter and is also his high school mascot.
Golden Bear

Start of Something Big

N icklaus began his amazing professional career in 1962, and he didn’t waste any time making his presence known.

His first professional win was at the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont C.C. in Oakmont, Pa. Not only was Nicklaus’ first win a major title, he defeated the King, Arnold Palmer, in his backyard.

It was the start of an incredible run in major championships that will likely never be matched. Nicklaus won his first Masters in 1963, and in 1965 at Augusta he had a revelation. After the first two rounds of the Masters, Nicklaus finally felt the crowd pulling for him after spending years as golf’s “black hat.”

Inspired by the adoring crowd, he shot 64 in the third round. In his autobiography, Nicklaus said of that eight-birdie, no-bogey round: “I had never before and have never since played quite as fine a complete round of golf in a major championship as I did on Saturday, April 10, in the third round of the Masters.”

The following year, Nicklaus won his first claret jug at Muirfield to complete the career Grand Slam at the age of 26. By the end of the decade, Nicklaus had won seven majors and 30 PGA Tour titles. But it was only the beginning.

Wins U.S. Open at Oakmont in playoff against Arnold Palmer (71 to 74).

Wins first Masters by one stroke over Tony Lema.

Wins second Masters by nine strokes.

Defeats Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer in 18-hole playoff to become first player to win consecutive Masters.

Wins first claret jug at The Open at Muirfield, also completes the first of three career Grand Slams.

Wins second U.S. Open at Baltusrol by four strokes over Palmer.

Makes first Ryder Cup appearance at age 29.

Jack Nicklaus 1960s Stats
You dont know Jack
Nicklaus beat Arnold Parlmer and Gary Player by 9 strokes at 1965 Masters, a margin of victory that would stand until Tiger Woods won by 12 in 1997.
Golden Bear

A Decade of Dominance

Nicklaus dominated the '70s winning eight majors and 38 PGA Tour titles. In his 40 starts in majors in the 1970s, Nicklaus finished outside the top 10 only five times and only missed one cut.

The only other person who had a comparable run was Tiger Woods in the 2000s. Woods won 12 majors from 2000-2008 and finished in the top 10 in 25 out of 38 majors. (Woods missed two majors in 2008 because of injury.)

Nicklaus emerged from a “slump” at the 1970 Open at St. Andrews, winning his first major since the 1967 U.S. Open at Baltusrol. The next year, he won the 1971 PGA Championship to become the only player to win the career Grand Slam twice.

He won the first two majors of 1972, and Nicklaus nearly completed the third leg of the calendar slam but lost by one stroke to Lee Trevino at The Open at Muirfield.

Nicklaus won two majors again in 1975. He captured the Masters with a thrilling finish. Nicklaus birdied the par-5 15th, and then holed a long putt for birdie on the par-3 16th to edge Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf by a stroke.

Nicklaus closed out the 1970s by winning the 1978 Open at St. Andrews. It marked the second time the Golden Bear had captured the claret jug on the hallowed links, and he completed the career Grand Slam for a third time. Woods would match Nicklaus with three career slams at the 2008 U.S. Open.

For the first time in his legendary career, Nicklaus would not win a single tournament in 1979, but he rededicated himself and worked on his swing with Grout and improved his short game with Phil Rodgers, who played on the PGA Tour in the 1960s and was a friend of Nicklaus’ for 20 years.

The work would pay off quickly as a 40-year-old Nicklaus headed into the majors in 1980.

Jack Nicklaus 1970s stats

Defeats Doug Sanders in an 18-hole playoff to win The Open Championship at St. Andrews.

Captures second PGA Championship and completes the career Grand Slam for second time.

Wins fourth green jacket by three strokes.

Wins U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by three strokes to become first player to win U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open on the same course.

Wins third PGA by four strokes at Canterbury C.C. in Cleveland.

Inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Shoots final-round 68 to win fifth Masters by one stroke over Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf.

Wins fourth PGA Championship by four strokes at Firestone C.C. in Akron, Ohio.

Two years after opening Muirfield Village G.C., hosts first Memorial Tournament in hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

Shoots 66-65 on the weekend at The Open Championship but loses “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry to Tom Watson’s 65-65.

Wins his own tournament, the Memorial, for first time.

Becomes only player to win three Players Championships.

Wins third career Grand Slam at The Open at St. Andrews. Woods only other player to win three career Grand Slams (2008 U.S. Open).

Wins sixth and final Australian Open.
You dont know Jack
In 1977, Nicklaus propses changes to Ryder Cup to include all of Continental Europe.
Golden Bear

Going Out in Style

Having already passed Bobby Jones’ record of 13 major championship (professional and amateur) and with his business interests increasing off the course, Nicklaus contemplated retirement as he reached 40. But the Golden Bear decided to revamp his game and play a limited schedule built around the majors and his own Memorial Tournament.

It paid off as Nicklaus won the U.S. Open and PGA in 1980 and his second Memorial in 1984.

Then in 1986, at age 46, Nicklaus won his 18th and final professional major at the Masters. He played the final 10 holes birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-par-eagle-birdie-birdie-par for a 65 that gave him his sixth green jacket.

The ’84 Memorial and ’86 Masters were also Nicklaus’s final PGA Tour wins. He ended his career with 73 titles, at the time that was second only to Sam Snead’s 82. Nicklaus has since been passed by Woods, who currently has 79 wins.

Almost as amazing as his major haul is the fact that he finished runner-up 19 times in the biggest events.

As the door on his PGA Tour career was closing, another would soon open as Nicklaus headed to what was then known as the Senior PGA Tour and a successful business career.

Wins fourth U.S. Open by two strokes over Isao Aoki at Baltusrol.

Dominates at Oak Hill to win fifth PGA by seven strokes over Andy Bean.

Captains first Ryder Cup team.

U.S. wins 14 ½ - 13 1/3 at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Wins second Memorial, last non-major PGA Tour win.

Shoots final-round 65 to win sixth Masters and 18th major title.

Captains second Ryder Cup team, but U.S. loses to Europe for the first time on American soil. Matches were held at Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village G.C.

Jack Nicklaus 1980s stats
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Nicklaus is the only player to win the U.S. Open in three different decades.
Golden Bear

Life After Golf

Just like the start of his PGA Tour career, Nicklaus quickly found the winner’s circle on the Senior PGA Tour. He won in his first start, the Tradition. It was the first of a record eight senior major championships. Nicklaus always played a limited schedule, but he helped popularize the Senior Tour along with Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Chi Chi Rodriguez.

Nicklaus continued to play in the majors for most of the ‘90s. He recorded his final top-10s at the Masters in 1990 (sixth) and in 1998, at 58, Nicklaus tied for sixth.

But it soon became apparent to the Golden Bear that his game was no longer capable of competing with the young guns. He played his final U.S. Open in 2000, fittingly at Pebble Beach, site of his second U.S. Amateur win and his third U.S. Open in 1972. Nicklaus also said goodbye to the PGA Championship in 2000 and only missed the cut by one stroke. Five years later, Nicklaus played his final Masters and last Open at St. Andrews. Nicklaus closed his major championship career with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th green at the Old Course.

In a strange coincidence, Woods would win the 2000 U.S. Open and PGA and the 2005 Masters and Open Championship. As Nicklaus’s playing career came to a close, he continued to work and expand his business empire that includes golf course design, wine, ice cream, golf academies, books, videos and more.

As he has since 1976, Nicklaus continues to host the Memorial Tournament every year in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. The tournament has become one of the premier events on the PGA Tour and has raised millions of dollars for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Nicklaus’ success on and off the course has earned him plenty of accolades. In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Nicklaus the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 2014 he received the Congressional Gold Medal. Both honors are the highest civilian awards in the United States.

Jack Nicklaus 1990 - 2000's stats

Wins first start on Senior PGA Tour at the Tradition, his first of eight Senior PGA majors.

Captures second major at Senior Tournament Players Championship.

Defends title at Tradition for third major.

Wins PGA Seniors’ Championship.

Wins third major of the year at U.S. Senior Open.

Wins second U.S. Senior Open.

Wins Tradition for seventh senior major.

Successfully defends Tradition for second time, wins eighth senior major.

Captains U.S. Presidents Cup team for first time, U.S. defeats International team, 20 ½ - 11 ½, in Victoria, Australia.

Finishes T-6 at Masters, at age 58.

Plays in final U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and final PGA Championship at Valhalla G.C. in Louisville.

Captains U.S. Presidents Cup team.

Matches end in a tie against Gary Player’s International team in George, South Africa.

Plays in final Masters and final Open at St. Andrews; birdies 18 at Old Course to end career in major championships.

Leads U.S. Presidents Cup team to victory against Gary Player’s International team, 18 ½ to 15 ½, in Prince William County, Va.

Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
You dont know Jack
Played in 154 consecutive majors for which he was eligible from 1957 U.S. Open to 1998 U.S. Open.