By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Jack Nicklaus counts four U.S.
Opens among his 18 professional major titles.
SAN FRANCISCO -- In honor of
Jack Nicklaus' career and his four U.S. Open championships, the
USGA announced Wednesday that it will name the gold medal that goes
to the winner after the legendary pro. In addition, the
organization is going to expand its museum in Far Hills, N.J., to
include a Jack Nicklaus room dedicated to the 71 USGA events he
played, starting with the 1953 U.S. Junior when he was just 13.
There are already rooms honoring Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Arnold
Palmer, and the USGA recently announced similar plans for one to
commemorate the career of Mickey Wright. "Well, kind of neat, isn't
it?" Nicklaus said, smiling. "Take an old guy and honor him. I
think that's pretty nice. It's pretty humbling and
meaningful, these honors, both the medal and the museum. I
appreciate that." Nicklaus, who played in a record 44 U.S. Opens,
picked up his first victory as a pro in 1962 at Oakmont when he
beat Palmer, the hometown favorite, in an 18-hole playoff. He went
on to win the U.S. Open three more times, finish second on four
occasions, post 11 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s, the latter two
of which are records. Nicklaus ended his career with a record 18
majors, including six Masters, five PGA Championships and three
British Opens. He won 73 PGA TOUR titles, a number tied two weeks
ago by Tiger Woods at Nicklaus' own Memorial Tournament, to rank
second all-time. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of that
first win, NBC will air a documentary titled "1962 U.S. Open:
Jack's First Major" at 2 p.m. ET prior to the final round coverage
of the 112th renewal of the national championship. Nicklaus'
final major victory came at the age of 46 when he won for the sixth
time at Augusta National. "Well, they're just a couple of years
apart," Nicklaus said when asked to contrast the two milestones.
"One, I was a young kid and the other I was an old man -- 46,
an old man. I'd like to run back to 46. I'd just like to be able to
run, actually." Nicklaus chuckled, as did his audience, before
reflecting further. He'd finished second and tied for fourth in his
two previous U.S. Opens and already the love affair with USGA tests
was being solidified. In addition, he had three second-place
finishes on TOUR that year, including the previous week at the
Thunderbird Open, so he went to Oakmont with confidence. "I didn't
realize, and I'm a young 22-year-old kid, I had no idea that Arnold
Palmer lived anywhere near there or anything else about Arnold,"
Nicklaus said. "Arnold was a friend and we'd played a lot of golf
together, but ... a 22-year0old doesn't have much of a brain
anyway, sort of goes along and whatever happens, happens. "And all
of a sudden, 20 years later, you look back on it and say, wow.
That's sort of what I did. Looking back on it you go back and say,
wow, that was pretty special. I guess I'd learned how to win a golf
tournament by then. Or I did learn how to win a golf tournament
that week. But … it was a learning process for me. "In '86
when I won the Masters, you know, I was basically beyond my career.
And nobody thought I could win the golf tournament, including me.
And getting myself in contention, I remembered how to play. I
remembered how to win a golf tournament. And that was unbelievably
exciting, to be able to come down and be able to, at 46, control
your emotions, control your golf club and your golf ball enough to
enable you to compete against the best in the world, which you
hadn't competed well against for a couple of years. That was pretty
thrilling. "So there are two totally different things. One is
you've got this young kid growing up and trying to figure out how
to become a player. And the other one is you've got this older guy
who has forgotten how to become a player and trying to remember
again. It's totally opposite."