Jack Nicklaus Biography

Career Facts and Figures for the Legendary Golfer

Jack Nicklaus in 1990
Jack Nicklaus (pictured in 1990) won 18 major championships, more than anyone else. Stephen Munday/Getty Images

Jack Nicklaus was the dominant player in golf from the early 1960s through the late 1970s, with a few more bursts of greatness into the 1980s. He is one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport; in fact, many rate him No. 1 all-time.

Nicklaus was born in Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 21, 1940. His nickname is one of the better-known in all of sports: The Golden Bear.

Jack Nicklaus' Total Wins and Major Wins

Nicklaus won 73 PGA Tour tournaments in his career which, at the time he retired, was No. 2 on the all-time PGA Tour wins list. As a senior (over-50) golfer, Nicklaus won 10 times on the Champions Tour, eight of which were senior majors.

In the professional major championships, Nicklaus won a record 18 times. But his major wins began as an amateur, with victories in the 1959 and 1961 U.S. Amateur championships. In the pro majors, Nicklaus won The Masters in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986. He won the U.S. Open in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1980; and the British Open in 1966, 1970 and 1978. And Nicklaus won the PGA Championship in 1963, 1971, 1973, 1975 and 1980.

Awards and Honors for Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus is the most-honored golfer in the sport's history. Among the highlights are:

  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame
  • PGA Tour money leader, 1964, 1965, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976
  • PGA Player of the Year, 1967, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976
  • Recipient, 2 "Golfer of the Century" awards
  • Named "Athlete of the Decade" for the 1970s by Sports Illustrated
  • Member, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1981
  • Captain, U.S. Ryder Cup team, 1983 and 1987
  • Captain, U.S. Presidents Cup team, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2007

Jack Nicklaus Biography

Jack Nicklaus won 73 PGA Tour events in his career. Only two golfers have won more. But in the majors, how do other golfers stack up against Nicklaus? They don't.

Nicklaus won 18 professional majors - twice as many as all but two other golfers. He finished second 19 more times, and third nine times. In all, Nicklaus posted 48 Top 3 finishes, 56 Top 5 finishes and 73 Top 10 finishes in majors.

Perhaps Tiger Woods will someday surpass Nicklaus' major wins. But for now, Nicklaus remains the most accomplished player in the history of major championship golf. And he did it all exhibiting great class and sportsmanship.

Nicklaus shot 51 in his first 9-hole round of golf at the age of 10. By age 12, he was winning the first of 6 straight Ohio State Junior titles. He missed the cut in his first U.S. Open in 1957 at age 17.

Nicklaus won the 1959 and 1961 U.S. Amateur titles while playing collegiately at Ohio State. He finished second to Arnold Palmer in the 1960 U.S. Open.

He turned pro in 1962, earning $33.33 in his first as a pro, the Los Angeles Open. But things quickly got better, and he won his first major that year, defeating Palmer in an 18-hole playoff at the 1962 U.S. Open.

By age 26, Nicklaus had completed the career grand slam. Then he won all the majors a second time. And finally, with his 1978 British Open victory, he'd won them all at least three times each. Nicklaus' final major came in 1986, at the age of 46, with his sixth Masters.

Nicklaus played sparingly on the Champions Tour, but won 10 times, including eight senior majors. He founded and hosts the prestigious Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.

Nicklaus brought power to the forefront in golf, being the longest driver of his generation. But he also was one of the best clutch putters ever, and his concentration skills were legendary.

Along the way, Nicklaus created his own equipment company and has designed hundreds of golf courses, among many off-course interests. His Muirfield Village Golf Club is considered among the best in the United States, a Nicklaus hosts the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament there every year.

Jack Nicklaus was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

Quote, Unquote

"I never went into a tournament or round of golf thinking I had to beat a certain player," Nicklaus once said. "I had to beat the golf course. If I prepared myself for a major, went in focused, and then beat the golf course, the rest took care of itself."

And Gene Sarazen once said of Nicklaus' greatness on the golf course, "I never thought anyone would ever put (Ben) Hogan in the shadows, but he did."

There are many great quotes by and about Jack Nicklaus. Here is just a sampling of more from the Bear himself:

  • "This is a game, that's all it is. It's not a war."
  • "I think I fail a bit less than everyone else."
  • "Success depends almost entirely on how effectively you learn to manage the game's two ultimate adversaries: the course and yourself."
  • "Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work."

Jack Nicklaus Trivia

  • Nicklaus' "Golden Bear" nickname was coined in the 1960s by an Australian newspaperman, but the sports teams at Nicklaus high school also had the nickname "Golden Bears."
  • Nicklaus played 154 consecutive majors for which he was eligible, from the 1957 U.S. Open to the 1998 U.S. Open.
  • Nicklaus finished in the Top 10 on the money list 17 consecutive years (1962-78).
  • He won at least one PGA Tour event in 17 consecutive years (1962-78).