The greatest golfer ever is playing in his last tournament this week at the British Open. Does this mean Tiger Woods is giving up golf? No. Tiger Woods is just the latest. Jack Nicklaus is the greatest.
You don't believe that some old-timer like Nicklaus was better than Tiger?
Golf is a game where you add up the numbers to see how you did. So let's add up some of Jack Nicklaus's numbers.
Nicklaus won 113 tournaments throughout the world during his career, including 73 Professional Golf Association victories. He also won a record 18 "major" tournaments. The majors are the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship. They are the toughest golf tournaments to win, and Jack Nicklaus has won more than anyone.
With a little luck, Nicklaus might have won even more majors. Between 1962, when Nicklaus won his first major, and 1986, when he won his last, Nicklaus not only won 18 majors, he also finished second in 18 other major tournaments. That means in the 100 major tournaments over 25 years, Nicklaus finished either first or second an unbelievable 36 times.
That's quite a record. Maybe that's why Tiger Woods, when he was growing up, kept a copy of the Nicklaus record on his bedroom wall. Tiger knew, and still knows, that Nicklaus is the golfer against whom any player who wants to be the best will be compared. (Tiger has won nine majors so far.)
Although the crowds at St. Andrews, Scotland, are cheering him this week, golf fans did not like Nicklaus at the beginning. They called him "Fat Jack," because Nicklaus was kind of chunky when he was young. He also wore baggy clothes and dopey golf hats. Fans rooted for their favorite, Arnold Palmer, another great American golfer.
Over the years, Nicklaus won over the fans with his great golf and good sportsmanship. He also started wearing better hats.
Nicklaus, 65, developed a second career as one of the finest golf course designers in the world. Nicklaus has designed more than 200 golf courses in 36 states and 28 foreign countries. Six of his courses have been named by Golf Digest as among America's greatest golf courses. Three are included in Golf magazine's list of the top 100 courses in the world.
It is as if Babe Ruth had begun to build baseball stadiums after his days as a slugger for the Yankees were over. Or Michael Jordan headed a company that built basketball arenas.
So there you have it. Jack Nicklaus is a champion, a sportsman and a great golf course designer. Tiger is terrific, but he still has a ways to go before he can claim Jack Nicklaus's title: the greatest golfer ever.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports column and is the author of sports novels for kids.