The list of Jack Nicklaus’ accomplishments is long. 73 wins on the PGA Tour and a record 18 major championships are the headline, but on Tuesday, he joins an exclusive club.
Nicklaus, 82, will become just the third American to be recognized as an honorary citizen of St. Andrews, Scotland, per ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. U.S. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin in 1759 and golfer Bobby Jones in 1958 are the only other Americans to receive the honor. Nicklaus will be honored two days prior to tee off at the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course.
Nicklaus made his debut at the Old Course in 1964 – the start of a love affair that’s lasted 58 years and counting.
“When I stepped on it in ’64, all of a sudden to step out of the clubhouse, step here, look at the first tee, look at what was there, see the town, see everything, I fell in love with it immediately,” Nicklaus said during a Monday press conference. “And I’ve had a love affair with it ever since.”
An Honor Nicklaus Couldn’t Turn Down
The honor was granted by the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews Community Council. The ceremony will take place during the 150th anniversary celebration of The Open. Jack Nicklaus opted not to play in Monday’s Celebration of Champions, saying he didn’t even bring his clubs to Scotland. Nicklaus notably did not take part in the Par 3 Contest at the Masters in April.
“It’s pretty special, it’s the reason I’m back. There are a lot of reasons to be back, the 150th anniversary, the tournament, the whole thing but this is why I’m back,” Nicklaus said, via The Open. “That’s pretty special, I think only two Americans have ever been honored before, so it’s special and I’m very flattered. I’m sure it will be a very humbling experience for me.
“I declined to come back the last couple of times to St Andrews because it made my farewell in 2005, and I didn’t want to come back and dilute that for what it was. It was fantastic then. But when I got the invitation this time to be an honorary citizen of St Andrews and to follow Bobby Jones and Benjamin Franklin, I’ve got to come back. So to be back is fantastic.”
Nicklaus Synonymous With St. Andrews
Over the course of his career, Jack Nicklaus became synonymous with the Old Course. In 1970 and 1978, he won two of his three career Open titles at the Old Course. He made his 164th and final start in a major in the 2005 Open Championship at St. Andrews. The Old Course has hosted the major a record 29 times, with this year marking the 30th time in which the world’s best golfers will compete for the Claret Jug at St. Andrews.
“I always said St. Andrews looked like an old gray town until the Open came around,” Nicklaus said. “All of a sudden, it just lit up like a light, and it was beautiful. And St. Andrews the week of the Open Championship is always beautiful. I imagine actually probably from anybody who makes a pilgrimage here to play this golf course feels that way.”