Biography

Jack Nicklaus on Golf Magazine cover February 2020

Jack Nicklaus on Golf Magazine cover February 2020

No name is more synonymous with greatness in the sport of golf than the name Jack Nicklaus, and no single person has changed the face of the sport more than Jack Nicklaus – the player, the designer, the philanthropist, and the good-will ambassador.

Jack, who will turn 80 on Jan. 21, was named “Golfer of the Century” or “Golfer of the Millennium” by almost every major golf publication in the world. He was also named Individual Male Athlete of the Century by Sports Illustrated, and one of the 10 Greatest Athletes of the Century by ESPN.

In 2015, the Golden Bear received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor the United States Congress can bestow on an individual or group, becoming just the seventh athlete to receive this prestigious honor. That same year, Jack became just the third-ever recipient of the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award from Sports Illustrated, created in 2008 to honor athletes and sports figures that have embodied the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy over their lifetime, and the first since the award was renamed in tribute to Ali.

A decade earlier, the Golden Bear was honored by President Bush at the White House with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the Office of the President can award any U.S. civilian. Jack is one of only two golfers to receive both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal and became just the 16th individual in history to receive both honors.

At the end of 2005, Jack was unanimously named by GolfWorld Magazine as its Newsmaker of the Year, punctuating a year in which he played his final British Open, his final Masters Tournament, and led the United States to a thrilling victory as captain of Team USA in The Presidents Cup.

In 2001, Jack was honored with the first-ever ESPY Lifetime Achievement Award, and he became the first golfer—and only the third athlete—to receive the Vince Lombardi Award of Excellence. In 2003, he was honored with the Muhammad Ali Sports Legend Award.

Jack’s competitive career spanned five decades, and his legend has been built with 120 professional tournament victories worldwide and a record 18 professional major-championship titles (six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens). He is one of only five golfers—Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Tiger Woods the others—who have won all four of golf’s modern majors, an achievement often referred to as the career “Grand Slam.” Jack remains the only player to have completed the career Grand Slam on both the regular and senior tours. His eight majors on the senior circuit, now called the PGA TOUR Champions, stood as a record from 1996 until 2017.

Jack is a five-time winner of the PGA Player of the Year Award and was the PGA Tour’s leading money-winner eight times and runner-up six times. He played on six Ryder Cup teams, captained two other Ryder Cup teams, and served as U.S. captain for 1998, 2003, 2005, and 2007 U.S. Presidents Cup teams—going unbeaten in his final three captaincies.

The legacy Jack has left as a player can be rivaled only by the legacy he is leaving as a golf course designer, businessman, and philanthropist.

Jack was voted the 2017 Golf Course Designer of the Year by the World Golf Awards, following his receipt of such honors as GOLF Magazine’s Architect of the Year in 2014,  GolfWorld’s Architect of the Year in 1993, and being named the world’s leading active designer by Golf Digest in 1999. In 2005, the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America recognized Jack with its highest honor, The Old Tom Morris Award. In 2001, he was named the recipient of both the Donald Ross Award (American Society of Golf Course Architects) and the Don A. Rossi Award (Golf Course Builders Association of America) and was honored with the International Network of Golf’s Achievement in Golf Course Design Award for 2000-2001.

Jack has been involved in the design of 300 courses open for play worldwide, and his thriving business, Nicklaus Design, has more than 415 courses open for play worldwide. Nicklaus Design courses are represented in 45 countries, and 39 states and no fewer than 145 Nicklaus Design courses have hosted close to 970 professional tournaments worldwide or significant national amateur championships. As many as 100 Nicklaus Design courses have appeared in various national and international Top-100 lists. The firm currently has projects under construction or under development in at least 20 different countries.

Since 1962, Jack has added the moniker of “businessman” to his lengthy résumé. He is co-chairman of the privately held Nicklaus Companies. For a record, six consecutive years (2004-09), Golf Inc. magazine ranked Jack “The Most Powerful Person in Golf,” due to his impact on various aspects of the industry through his course design work, marketing and licensing business, his ambassadorial role in promoting and growing the game worldwide, and his involvement on a national and global level with various charitable causes. He was also named “Golf Development Newsmaker of the Year” for 2005 by Golf Inc., and the Robb Report once named Jack the “Leading Power Player” in the golf market. Jack was also the “Global Ambassador,” along with women’s golf legend Annika Sorenstam, for golf’s unified campaign to gain inclusion into the Olympic Games, a goal realized in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee voted to add golf to the 2016 Olympic Program.

In 2017, Nicklaus Design was honored with the Asia-Pacific Golf Summit’s “Impact” Award for its influence on design and development worldwide. Seven years earlier, Jack became the first American inducted into the Asia Pacific Golf Hall of Fame and Nicklaus Design was named Golf Course Architect of the Year in the Asia Pacific for the third straight year and fourth time in eight years. Nicklaus has also been named the Top Golf Course Architect in Mexico in every year a survey has been conducted by BEST’s Golf Guide to Mexico. In just over a four-week period in 2008, Jack received three Lifetime Achievement Awards in three different countries, as he was honored by the China Golf Association, then received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, and, finally, was presented the KPMG Golf Business Forum’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2008, Jack was also recognized for his global impact through design as well as his philanthropic efforts at home, when he was presented with The Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship is given to executives who exemplify a commitment to the common good—beyond the bottom line—and who demonstrate that private firms should be stellar citizens in their own neighborhoods, as well as in the world.

Jack and his wife Barbara have a long history of involvement in numerous charitable activities, from junior golf to children’s hospitals to several scholarship foundations. Jack and Barbara are the guiding light for the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which supports numerous pediatric health-care services in South Florida, as well as nationally, and has raised tens of millions of dollars since its inception in 2004.

In 2015, Jack and Barbara’s efforts for impacting pediatric healthcare reached a significant milestone when Miami Children’s Health System renamed its flagship hospital Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. In November of 2017, and in a system-wide rebranding, Miami Children’s Health System became Nicklaus Children’s Health System. This includes 16 outpatient centers and facilities located throughout Florida.

A year earlier, Jack and Barbara celebrated the opening of the Advanced Pediatric Care Pavilion (APCP), a new six-story, 212,000 square-foot state-of-the-art family-centered facility within the campus of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

In October 2010, Jack and Barbara were inducted into the Ambassador David M. Walter International Pediatric Hall of Fame.

Focused on growing the game of golf, Jack is a Trustee of The First Tee and a national chair of the organization’s “More Than A Game” capital campaign. Three times he has spoken before the U.S. Congress on the character-building aspects of The First Tee. In 2017, he and the Nicklaus Companies also became a Trustee of the PGA of America, where Nicklaus is a spokesperson for PGA REACH— the charitable arm of the PGA of America, with focuses on youth, military, and diversity and inclusion.

In 2013, Jack received the Ambassador of Golf Award at Firestone Country Club on the eve of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The Ambassador of Golf Award is presented annually to a person who has fostered the ideals of the game on an international level and whose concern for others extends beyond the golf course. Barbara was the 1990 Ambassador of Golf Award recipient.

Because of the contributions Barbara and Jack have made to golf and to the community, they were honored twice in 2007—the first being The Boys Scouts of America Distinguished Citizens Award, and then the Francis Ouimet Lifelong Contributions to Golf Award.

Residing in North Palm Beach, Fla., since 1965 and in the same home they have lived since 1970, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus are parents to five children and grandparents to 22.