Nicklaus to be honorary starter at Masters

Related: See more than 100 photos from Jack Nicklaus' past appearances at the Masters Tournament.


Six-time Masters Tournament champion Jack Nicklaus will join Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter in 2010.

Nicklaus, who turns 70 in January, will become the eighth honorary starter in Masters history, Augusta National Golf Club and Masters chairman Billy Payne announced Monday.

"I am honored that Jack Nicklaus has accepted our invitation," Payne said in a prepared statement. "We are delighted and fortunate to have such a great ambassador and icon of our sport take part in this tradition. He has inspired generations of golfers and having Jack join Arnold on the first tee next April will be a special thrill for his many loyal fans around the world."

Palmer revived the tradition in 2007 after the deaths of Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead left a void in the tradition from 2003-2006.

Nicklaus retired from Masters competition in 2005 after 45 appearances at Augusta, and he left behind numerous records that include number of wins (6) and oldest winner (age 46 in 1986).

"I have had such a long-standing appreciation and love affair with Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, and this honor is a wonderful way for me to say thank you to the many patrons who have supported me over the decades," Nicklaus said in a prepared statement. "I am also delighted to join my longtime friend Arnold on the tee. I have always had great respect for Arnold and his legacy at the Masters, and I did not, in any way, want to infringe on the opportunity for Arnold to have and enjoy this Masters tradition for himself. He is so deserving of this honor, and thus I felt it was his time, not mine. Recently, I was invited by both Augusta National and Arnold to join him on the first tee, and because he enthusiastically supported the invitation, it became an easy decision for me."

The tradition began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod, the winners of the PGA Seniors' Championship held at Augusta National in 1937-38, starting the tournament together on Thursday morning.

By the 1980s, the rite of spring had evolved, with the trio of Sarazen, Snead and Nelson all hitting opening tee shots. Former CBS analyst Ken Venturi also filled in one year.

Sarazen died in 1999, and Nelson retired from the role after 2001. Snead continued alone in 2002, but died the next month. Nelson died in 2006.

The 2010 Masters is scheduled for April 5-11.

Honorary starters

Jock Hutchison 1963-73

Fred McLeod 1963-76

Byron Nelson 1981-2001*

Gene Sarazen 1981-99

Ken Venturi 1983

Sam Snead 1984-2002

Arnold Palmer 2007-09




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