On August 12, 1973, American golfer Jack Nicklaus wins the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) championship for his 14th major title, surpassing Bobby Jones’ record of 13 major championships. Nicklaus shot a seven-under-par 277 at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio, to win $45,000 and his third PGA National championship. The “Golden Bear” went on to win a total of 20 major tournaments, a record that still stands today. (Although it aptly describes his golden-colored hair and large build, Nicklaus’ famous moniker is actually derived from his high school alma mater, the Upper Arlington Golden Bears.)
Regarded as the greatest golfer of the 20th century, Nicklaus was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1940. He began playing golf at the age of 10 and at the age of 16 won his first significant tournament, the Ohio Open. In 1959, he won the U.S. Amateur championship, which at the time was still considered one of golf’s major tournaments. Two years later, he repeated the feat and announced he was turning professional. His first major professional title was the 1962 U.S. Open at the Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was derided by spectators for beating fan-favorite Arnold Palmer, and a rivalry was born between the two American golfers that lasted through the 1960s.
Nicklaus was a major force in professional golf from 1962 through 1986. He won six Masters tournaments, five PGA championships, four U.S. Open titles, and three British Open titles. He was a member of the winning U.S. World Cup team six times and was a record three-time individual World Cup winner. Nicklaus demonstrated remarkable composure under competitive pressure. On August 12, 1973, he surpassed the record of most major championships set by American golfer Bobby Jones in 1930. Nicklaus’ last major title was in 1986 when, at age 46, he became the oldest Masters winner in history. By that time, he had played in 100 major championships, finishing in the top three nearly 50 times.
A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1974, the PGA named him Golfer of the Century in 1988. He joined the Senior tour in 1990, winning the U.S. Senior Open in 1991 and 1993. Throughout his career, Nicklaus also designed many noted golf courses, including Muirfield Village Golf Course in Ohio, site of the Nicklaus-sponsored Memorial Tournament. In 1993, 10 of the courses he designed were included by Golf Digest on its list of the 100 best golf courses in America.
Until the late 1990s, it seemed unlikely that any golfer would ever break Nicklaus’ record of 20 major championships (or 18 major professional titles if his two U.S. Amateur victories are not taken into account). However, Tiger Woods, who won his first major championship in 1997 at the age of 21, seems on track to surpass the record.
In 2005, Nicklaus announced he was retiring from professional tournament play after that year’s British Open.