Now his name will be forever linked to the U.S. Open.
The USGA announced Wednesday that the gold medal annually awarded to the winner of the national championship will now be called the Nicklaus Medal. It features a silhouette of Nicklaus, who won the U.S. Open a record-tying four times.
In addition, the USGA is expanding its museum in Far Hills, N.J., to honor Nicklaus and his achievements. The museum already features rooms for Masters Tournament co-founder Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Mickey Wright.
“It’s pretty humbling and meaningful, these honors, both the medal and the museum,” Nicklaus said. “I appreciate that.”
Nicklaus, 72, first competed in a USGA event when he was 13 at the U.S. Junior Amateur. He went on to win eight national titles: four U.S. Opens, two U.S. Senior Opens and two U.S. Amateurs.
The Golden Bear won his first U.S. Open 50 years ago when he defeated Palmer in a playoff at Oakmont. A special film, 1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major, on that memorable duel will be broadcast at 2 p.m. Sunday on NBC before the U.S. Open’s final round.
Nicklaus went on to add U.S. Open wins in 1967, 1972 and 1980. Nicklaus holds the record for most major titles, including six wins at the Masters, with 18 overall.
USGA president Glen Nager lauded Nicklaus for not only his skill on the course but for his demeanor.
“Jack has always displayed the kind of integrity, sportsmanship and respect, both for the game and for his fellow competitors, that distinguishes golf from other sports,” Nager said.
Nicklaus said, as an American, he considered the U.S. Open to be the “most important championship in the world.”
And he also said he will treasure the honor, even though he asked that the artist give him a “haircut” on the original silhouette sketch.
“When somebody comes to me and says, ‘Hey, I won the Jack Nicklaus Medal,’ I’ll say, ‘That’s great,’” Nicklaus said. “Thanks so much.”