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January 21, 2020

Jack Nicklaus is more than a golfer, he’s an idea. It’s one thing to be the greatest champion the game has ever known, but to also be the quintessence of class, dignity and sportsmanship? Well, Jack represents something bigger than himself. In honor of The Golden Bear turning 80 on Tuesday (Jan. 21), GOLF.com is spending Nicklaus’ birthday week — with a little help from his friends — honoring the man himself. You can find even more Jack at 80 coverage in GOLF’s February issue.

In a personal and professional life so overwhelmingly accomplished, choosing Jack Nicklaus’ 80 greatest moments is an incredible challenge. Could there easily have been hundreds? We’ll let Verne Lundquist answer that: “Yes, sir!”

Spring 1950
At age 10, Jack Nicklaus first tags along with his father, Charlie, for a round at Scioto Country Club, in Columbus, Ohio. Smitten by the game, he begins taking lessons with the club’s head pro, Jack Grout. Young Jack is a quick study. The first time he keeps score, he cards a 51 over nine holes. But the season’s most enduring memory comes when Charlie catches Jack throwing a club in frustration. The paternal scolding that follows is a defining moment that shapes how Jack comports himself throughout his career. More important than any swing tip is learning how to play the game.

June 9, 1953
At 13, Jack wins the Ohio State Junior Championship, his first of three consecutive victories in the event.

Summer 1953
He breaks 70 for the first time and gets his first official handicap: plus-3.

July 29 to 30, 1953
At 13, playing his first national tournament, the USGA Junior Championship, for golfers 17 and under, Jack wins his first three matches before being eliminated in the fourth round. That same year, at another amateur event, he earns a reprimand from USGA executive director Joe Dey, who almost penalizes Jack for being late to the first tee. Jack is never late again. “Outside of my father and Jack Grout, Joe Dey was the most influential person in my life,” Jack says.

Summer 1954
He makes his first hole in one, from 154 yards, at the Scioto Junior Championship.

September 12, 1955
At 15, competing in his first U.S. Amateur Championship, Jack loses in the first round, 1-down. The consolation? He meets Bobby Jones.

July 29, 1956
At 16, he wins his first tournament against pros: the Ohio State Open. The following year, he claims his first national title, the U.S. National Jaycees Championship, at the Scarlet Golf Club, in Columbus.

Spring 1957
Jack is named to the First Team All-League High School Basketball Team. At one point in the season, he sinks 26 consecutive free throws.

September 2, 1957
Earns his first mention in Sports Illustrated, which will go on to feature him on its cover 20 times.

September 1957: Meets future wife Barbara Bash
On the first weekend of the fall semester at Ohio State, Jack, 17, is standing on a stairwell in the Oval when he’s introduced by mutual friends to a freshman nursing student. Barbara Bash is on her way to work at a campus science lab. But before she leaves, Jack gets her number. Less than two years later, on Christmas Day, 1959, he proposes. They are married the following summer. “All these years later, with all the good things that have happened to me, I still believe that Barbara is the most precious gift in my life,” Jack says. “She has been my foundation, my voice of reason, my sounding board, my biggest supporter, my best friend and the love of my life.”