Jack Nicklaus is considered as the greatest golfer of all-time. Dubbed as the Golden Bear for his burly physique and blonde hair, Nicklaus own the record for most major championships won at 18. Aside from those victories, he also owns 19 second place finishes and 9 third place finishes in majors.
His 1962 victory over Arnold Palmer in the U.S. Masters began a storied rivalry. In 1966, he became the first golfer to win the Masters in consecutive years. When he claimed his final major tournament at the 1986 Masters, he became the oldest winner in tournament history.
Nicklaus joined the Senior PGA tour when he became eligible to do so in 1990. Six years later and despite playing a limited schedule, he won 10 tournaments on tour, including 8 majors. In 2005, he made his final appearances at the Masters and at the The Open Championships.
In his 25 year career, he captured 73 PGA tour victories ( 3rd most all-time ). He was named PGA Tour Player of the Year five times, The PGA Tour leading money winner eight times and was the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement award winner in 2008. Nicklaus was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Jack Nicklaus’ legend extends beyond his golfing career. After winning the 1962 U.S. Open, Nicklaus and agent Mark McCormack of the International Management Group based in Cleveland, created Golden Bear as a company that would bind Nicklaus’ business deals and endorsements.
Because Nicklaus didn’t finish college, he concentrated on playing golf while McCormack took care of Golden Bear. In 1968, Nicklaus left McCormack and incorporated Golden Bear two years later.The new corporation was now run by Putnam Pierman, a native of Columbus who knew Jack Nicklaus since high school.
Nicklaus had long been interested in designing golf courses and in 1967, he began working on a golf course in Columbus called Muirfield Village. Pierman spearheaded the project and helped Nicklaus complete it with the help of his family owned construction business in Ohio.
Nicklaus’ early projects included the Harbor Town Golf Club on Hilton Head, South Carolina, John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida, Wabeek Golf Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and the Jack Nicklaus Sports Center in in Cincinnati, Ohio. To date, Nicklaus has designed 415 golf courses open for play across 45 countries and 39 states.
Nicklaus and Pierman parted in 1975 and the ace golfer hired Charles E. Perry in 1976 to run Golden Bear. At that time, Nicklaus’ basic design fee was worth $150,000 in the United States, $250,000 in English-speaking countries abroad and $300,000 elsewhere. If the course wanted to use Nicklaus’ name and have him as endorser, clients would have to fork out an additional $1M to do so.
In 1985 though, Golden Bear almost hit a brick wall. The company was in debt for $175M and facing bankruptcy. Nicklaus fired Perry and took change of the company that was now known as Golden Bear International, Inc. By 1988, its debts were almost extinguished and the company made $98M in sales, $10M in profits.
By the mid 90’s Golden Bear was evolving nicely. After its financial woes a decade earlier, it was now raking in $50M annually. At the turn of the new millenium, the company changed its name to Nicklaus Companies. In 2007, billionaire Howard Milstein bought 49% of Nicklaus Companies for $145M.
On February 9, 2018, Nicklaus announced that he will be stepping down from day to day operations with Nicklaus Companies to focus on his family and charity works. Milstein will take over as Executive Chairman while the now 78 year old Jack Nicklaus relegated himself as Co-Chairman.
In 1992, Nicklaus founded Nicklaus Golf Equipment which manufactures three brands: Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus Signature, Nicklaus Premium. Its products include drivers, fairways, hybrids, irons, wedges, sets, putters, shafts, golf balls, golf gloves, and golf bags. The three brands cater to golfers at different stages of golfing ability.
Nicklaus also ventured into the wine business in 2010, partnering with the popular Terlato Wines to produce a collection of three wines namely: Jack Nicklaus Private reserve ( red blend ) , Cabernet Sauvignon and Private Reserve White ( white blend ). The Golden Bear Reserve was launched in commemoration of Nicklaus’ first major victory - the 1962 U.S. Open.
Nicklaus also lends his name and likeness to the Arizona Beverage Company for a line of flavored lemonades. In 2015, Nicklaus teamed up with Schwan’s Company to launch a premium line of ice cream called Jack Nicklaus Ice Cream. In 2016, the company doubled its flavors from the original line of seven during its inception.
As great a golfer and businessman that he is, Jack Nicklaus is one of the greatest philanthropists in sports. A year before Jack Nicklaus played his final round in a major championship, the Golden Bear founded the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over $83M for pediatric care programs in South Florida.
The world renowned Miami Children’s Hospital was renamed as the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in 2015 after Nicklaus and his family pledged a donation of $60M. In 2017, the Miami Children’s Health System was also rebranded as Nicklaus Children’s Health System to align itself with its flagship Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and to honor to contributions made by Jack Nicklaus and his family.
Also in 2017, Nicklaus Companies and Jack Nicklaus partnered with PGA REACH, the the charitable foundation of the PGA of America. The partnership includes financial support from the Nicklaus Companies plus a personal commitment from Jack Nicklaus himself to support the PGA REACH’s focus areas: Youth, Military and Diversity & Inclusion.
While Nicklaus owns the record for 18 major tournaments won, his total career earnings was just $5,734,031 according to the PGA Tour’s official site That amount puts him at just 270 on the list, way off the $110M that Tiger Woods has earned. However, because of his endorsements and businesses, Jack Nicklaus is still one of the richest golf players of all-time.
In 2014, Nicklaus earned $30M, making him Forbes’ 4th highest earning retired athlete that year. Forbes then ranked Nicklaus as the 6th highest earning retired athlete in 2015 with total earnings of $26M. The following year, Nicklaus was 4th on the Forbes list of the highest paid athletes of all-time with a reported $1.15B in career earnings.
Nicklaus’ net worth was a reported $280M in 2015 according to Slice.ca. On the other hand, worldwide.golf estimated in 2017 that the Golden Bear’s networth to be at $320M, making him the 4th richest golfer in history behind, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson.
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