Jack Nicklaus, a winner of both the coveted Western Amateur and Western Open, headlined the Western Golf Association’s third annual Green Coat Gala, a black-tie event that raised more than $900,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation, which awards college scholarships to deserving golf caddies. The total was more than $300,000 above the money raised in 2012.
A sold-out crowd of about 350 attendees packed a ballroom at The Peninsula Hotel in downtown Chicago to attend the event, which featured Nicklaus—the winner of record 18 major championships, two Western Open titles (1967-68), and the 1961 Western Amateur—fielding questions from longtime friend and two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North, a lead analyst for ESPN’s golf coverage.
Nicklaus covered a wide range of topics during his chat with North, a fellow Western Amateur winner, including his friendship with fellow icon Arnold Palmer and his most memorable wins and losses. Nicklaus has a record-best 19 runner-up finishes at major tournaments.
Nicklaus said he was proud to support an organization like the Evans Scholars Foundation that does so much for the game of golf and for young people.
“I think the Evans Scholars program is about citizenship, about sportsmanship and it is about being a good person because, without those traits, you’re not going to put yourself in a position to earn such a valuable scholarship and opportunity,” Nicklaus said. “You’ve had several thousand kids go through this program and that’s pretty significant. To have that many people influenced by the game of golf through caddying is very special.”
The Q&A with Nicklaus and North concluded with a surprise for the Golden Bear—the iconic champion being inducted into the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Hall of Fame.
“Jack has been a longtime supporter of caddies and the value of the caddie in the game of golf,” said WGA President & CEO John Kaczkowski. “There is no one more fitting for this honor than you. On behalf of the WGA, please accept this award in appreciation of all you do for golf.”
Nicklaus has been credited with bringing yardage books to the PGA Tour. In addition to relationships with high-profile caddies such as Angelo Argea, Augusta National’s Willie Peterson, and his longtime British Open caddie Jimmy Dickinson, the Golden Bear managed to integrate his love of family into his career by having his sons carry his bag in a number of tournaments and major championships. The most famous of these is arguably the 1986 Masters, during which oldest son Jack II was on his bag.
Throughout the evening, Nicklaus emphasized the role caddying played in his success as a golfer.
“I started as a caddie, just like a lot of other kids,” Nicklaus said. “If my father hadn’t taken me out and said, ‘I need somebody to carry the bag,’ I wouldn’t be sitting here tonight, I’m sure of that.”
Peggy Kusinski, award-winning member of the NBC 5 Chicago sports team, served as emcee for the evening.