Jack Nicklaus receives Congressional Gold Medal in ceremony at U.S. Capitol

Jack Nicklaus
U.S. Congress via YouTube
Jack Nicklaus said he was "honestly and completely humbled" to receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Tuesday.
By John Holmes
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | 5:28 p.m.
 
Jack Nicklaus became the third golfer to receive the Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor that the U.S. Congress can bestow on an individual – in an emotional ceremony on Tuesday.
 
"My whole life's work was to make you all proud of me," Nicklaus said to his wife Barbara, five children and 22 grandchildren – all of whom attended the festivities in the Capitol Rotunda. "Hopefully, I have."
 
Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of CBS sports' golf coverage, called Nicklaus "an American treasure" and "our gift to the world." He added that Nicklaus' "philanthropic victories are more special than his golf conquests," and noted the Nicklaus family's extensive efforts in raising money for the military, spinal cord and cancer research, and especially children's health.
 
In an emotional 20-minute acceptance speech, Nicklaus detailed how his father introduced him to the game at age 10, and used golf to teach him the very important lessons of how to win and how to handle adversity.
 
He also recounted an occasion when his son, Jack II, was young, was asked what his father did for a living.  "Nothing," Jackie said, "he just plays golf."
 
 
Nicklaus used that as a theme throughout his remarks, noting how "just playing golf" allowed him to meet seven U.S. presidents, travel the world and meet people from all stations of life around the globe. He has always been impressed, he said, at how effective golf is at crossing borders and connecting generations.
 
"For millions of people, golf does so much," he added. "The game of golf as a whole has given more to charity than all other sports combined – almost $4 billion in charitable giving each year."
 
A significant of that, of course, comes from Nicklaus, and several of the speakers praised the Golden Bear and wife Barbara for their lifelong commitment to philanthropy – including their recent pledge of $60 million to children's health care in Florida. 
 
Nicklaus gave his wife much of the credit for spearheading their charitable activities, and broke down when discussing her important to him and their family. 
 
 
"Were it not for Barbara," I'd have been just another golfer," he said. He also said that she was responsible for 15 of his major champions, adding that "I'll give myself credit for three."
 
Nicklaus received the award in a special gathering that included Senate and House leaders from both parties as well as the entire Congressional delegation from Ohio. Among the special guests was his friend and rival, Arnold Palmer; Nicklaus attended the 2012 ceremony in which Palmer received his Gold Medal.
 
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor that the U.S. Congress can bestow. Nicklaus was chosen "in recognition of his many contributions to the game of golf and his service to the community and the nation," according to the bill, which was authored by Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio.
 
Nicklaus is the third golfer to receive the Gold Medal, following Palmer and Byron Nelson (2006). Other athletes to have received it include Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens.
 
The first gold medal was awarded to George Washington for his military courage during the Revolutionary War. For a person to even be considered, two-thirds of the House members (290) and the Senate (67) must cosponsor the legislation (not just vote for it).
 
You can watch the ceremony right here: