USGA celebrates achievements of The Golden Bear with series of honors

In celebration of his 50-plus-year career and contributions to the game as a champion, course designer, philanthropist and ambassador, Jack Nicklaus has been honored by the United States Golf Association with a series of public acknowledgments on a scale befitting his impressive accomplishments and his enduring connection to the U.S. Open Championship.

These acknowledgments, which were announced on the eve of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, include: dedicating the gold medal presented each year to the U.S. Open champion in Jack’s honor; announcing plans to expand the USGA Museum with a new Jack Nicklaus Room dedicated to his USGA championships and career; and, debuting Sunday, June 17, on NBC, a new documentary film that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Jack’s 1962 U.S. Open victory, his first professional major championship, which marked the arrival of a champion for the ages and began the exciting era of The Golden Bear.

“These are honors that truly challenge you to put words with, because of how humbling and meaningful they are,” Nicklaus said. “I have always held the USGA and their championships in the highest regard. They are the caretakers of our game. In addition, I have always loved USGA championships. I have played in a total of 71, and since I was a 13-year-old junior, they have always been the ultimate and complete examinations of a golfer.

“While every major championship is meaningful and memorable, I have always considered the U.S. Open the most important major championship to me,” added Nicklaus. “The U.S. Open represents our national championship and because I am an American, there is a special connection to that major and an enormous sense of satisfaction when fortunate to win it. With the dedication of this medal, and to be associated with this great championship going forward, is among the most special recognitions I have ever received.”

Dedicating the Nicklaus Medal

The USGA announced that the medal presented each year to the winner of the U.S. Open has been renamed in Nicklaus’ honor and redesigned with his iconic image. The gold medal, which has not had a formal name and whose design has evolved over time, dates to the first U.S. Open in 1895, when Horace Rawlins received the coveted prize, and has been given to every U.S. Open champion since.

Beginning with the 2012 U.S. Open, each champion will receive the newly named Jack Nicklaus Medal, which incorporates a silhouette of the four-time U.S. Open champion in its design.

“As we continue to crown future great U.S. Open champions, they will be forever linked to Jack Nicklaus and his remarkable U.S. Open record,” said USGA President Glen D. Nager.

Nicklaus is among the greatest U.S. Open champions in history, with a record-tying four victories, and has been inextricably linked with the USGA. In addition to his four U.S. Open wins, he has four runner-up finishes, a record-tying 11 top-five finishes and a record 18 top-10 finishes. Nicklaus was 17 years old when he played in his first U.S. Open, in 1957, and age 60 when he played in his last, in 2000. His 44 U.S. Open starts, made consecutively, remains a record.

Nicklaus’ relationship with the USGA began at the age of 13, when he played in his first USGA championship, the 1953 U.S. Junior Amateur. Nicklaus went on to win eight USGA championships, victories that spanned five decades, from the 1959 U.S. Amateur to the 1993 U.S. Senior Open. Nicklaus also played on two winning USA Walker Cup Teams in 1959 and 1961, and led the USA to a World Amateur Team Championship win in 1960.

In addition to four U.S. Open titles, Nicklaus captured six Masters, five PGA Championships and three Open Championship victories for a total of 18 professional major championships, the most of any player in the game’s history. He has 73 PGA Tour victories and 120 professional wins around the world.

Building a Nicklaus Exhibition Gallery

Since few people have added more to the history of the game than Jack Nicklaus, the USGA also announced plans to expand the USGA Museum with construction of a new exhibition gallery – The Jack Nicklaus Room – that will highlight Nicklaus’ iconic performances in USGA championships, as well as his storied career in the game.

The 24-month expansion project, which could break ground as early as summer 2013, and open in spring 2015, will add more than 1,000 square feet of exhibition space to the USGA Museum, while maintaining the exterior and interior architectural character of the historic John Russell Pope building that today anchors the USGA campus.

Through iconic artifacts, multi-media imagery and words, the exhibition will celebrate Nicklaus’ career, primarily through the lens of his four U.S. Open victories in 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1980, as well as his play in USGA championships over five decades.

Debuting “1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major”

The USGA’s recognition of Nicklaus’ career will also be celebrated on the small screen. On Sunday, June 17, at 2 p.m. EDT on NBC, prior to live final-round coverage of the 112th U.S. Open, the USGA will debut “1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major,” the Association’s first-ever documentary film produced for network television. The one-hour program chronicles Nicklaus’ first U.S. Open victory in 1962 at Oakmont Country Club, which set in motion one of the most prolific careers in professional golf and at the same time ignited one of the greatest rivalries in sport, between Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

“1962 U.S. Open: Jack’s First Major” is a USGA film produced in collaboration with the USGA Museum and Ross Greenburg Productions, and features archival footage of the 1962 U.S. Open from the Museum’s own collection, and other archival material from Oakmont Country Club, the Jack Nicklaus Museum, Augusta National Golf Club and The R&A, as well as newsreels of the day. The film also includes fresh interviews with Nicklaus, Palmer and other luminaries from golf and journalism to tell the complete story of the 1962 U.S. Open Championship, from the opening round through the dramatic 18-hole playoff, covering events both on and off the course.

A preview trailer of the documentary film is available at www.usga.org/62usopenfilm.

“Based on his overall career performance, Jack Nicklaus is arguably the greatest U.S. Open player of all time, and we’re thrilled to tell the story of his win at the 1962 U.S. Open through this new film,” said Robert Williams, director of the USGA Museum. “This film masterfully tells the story of the turning point in Nicklaus’ career, from successful amateur and collegiate player to U.S. Open champion, which set into motion a major-championship record that has remained unmatched for 50 golden years.”

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