Jack Nicklaus (right) and Tony Jacklin at the 1969 Ryder Cup
The Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, turns 75 today.
Surely a great many retrospectives will be written today celebrating Nicklaus’ eighteen Majors, his 19 second place finishes or his 73 Tour victories. Nicklaus also had eight Senior Majors and two amateur titles. He led the Tour eight times in scoring average, and eight times was the money leader. Sports Illustrated named him the greatest individual male athlete of the 20th Century.
The story that most interests me, however, dates back to 1969. On the final hole of was at that time the most acrimonious of Ryder Cup Competitions, Nicklaus conceded a three foot putt to Britain’s Tony Jacklin, ensuring an overall tie.
Nicklaus knew what was at stake, and at the same time, knew that Jacklin was a British golfing hero. Nicklaus simply wasn’t going to let Jacklin be the goat.
Upon conceding the putt and shaking Jacklin’s hand, Nicklaus said, “I don’t believe you’d have missed that putt, but I would never give you the opportunity in these circumstances.”
It is simply one of the most important acts of sportsmanship ever.