Originally published: Wednesday, September 18, 2019 | 1:21 p.m.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Barbara Nicklaus, one of the game’s most successful ambassadors and admired advocates for the healthcare of future generations in addition to being the wife of the greatest champion in golf history, has been named recipient of the 2019 PGA Distinguished Service Award.
Nicklaus, 79, will be honored Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the PGA of America’s 103rd Annual Meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since 1988, the PGA Distinguished Service Award honors outstanding individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf.
Barbara Nicklaus, the inaugural PGA First Lady of Golf in 1998, and Jack, are the second husband-wife duo to have earned the PGA Distinguished Service Award. Jack was a recipient in 2000, while Mark and Debi Rolfing were jointly honored in 2017.
“Barbara Nicklaus exemplifies what the words ‘giving back’ truly mean,” said PGA President Suzy Whaley. “From the platform of golf, her unlimited energy and passion for serving as a philanthropist has offered hope and a pathway to vital healthcare for countless children. We are extremely proud to present Barbara with the PGA Distinguished Service Award as she joins her husband, Jack, among those honored for an amazing commitment to elevating society and humanity.”
She is the chair and co-founder of Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which was established in 2004 to support numerous pediatric healthcare services in South Florida and across the United States. As chair of the Foundation, Barbara has been the catalyst to raising more than $100 million in nearly 15 years.
“To say that I was speechless when Suzy Whaley called to inform me that I was to receive this award would be an understatement,” Nicklaus said. “When I took a minute to think about the award, I realized that I have a huge passion for a short four-letter word – GOLF – and that golf has been a very important part of my life for almost 60 years. It has opened so many doors to allow me to attempt to ‘give back’ to the game that Jack loved when I met him and to the game that I now love, cherish and support unconditionally.
“Golf has made so many things possible. Jack and I could never give back as much as we have been blessed to receive from this amazing game. The PGA of America has been and is the ‘heart and soul’ of the game of golf. I am so honored, so touched and so very proud to receive this phenomenal award.”
In March 2015, the Nicklauses’ support of children’s hospitals was recognized when globally renowned Miami Children’s Hospital was rebranded as Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. In November 2017, the entire Miami Children’s Health System was renamed as Nicklaus Children’s Health System. This network now features 15 outpatient centers from Miami north to Vero Beach and west to Naples.
Born Barbara Jean Bash in Columbus, Ohio, she was the daughter of a public high school mathematics instructor and became a pre-nursing student at The Ohio State University, where she met her future husband.
While her husband went on to a legendary golf career, Barbara became the mother of five children, one of the most respected wives on the PGA TOUR and a beacon for fundraising for numerous charitable organizations.
Among the Nicklauses’ favorite charities is Nationwide Children’s Hospital. When it was known as Columbus Children’s Hospital, the facility provided the emergency care to nurse their only daughter, Nan, who contracted pneumonia before her first birthday after accidentally inhaling a portion of a crayon, which lodged in her windpipe. Today, Nan is married and the mother of five children, including NFL standout and Florida State All-American Nick O’Leary.
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, founded in 1976 and hosted by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, has benefitted Nationwide Children’s Hospital since its inaugural year. The Memorial has raised more than $36 million for Central Ohio charities, including over $20 million to support the programs and services at Nationwide Children’s.
Barbara and Jack Nicklaus live in North Palm Beach, Florida. They are the parents of five children — Jack II; Steve, Nan, Gary and Michael — and have 22 grandchildren. Click here for a list of PGA Distinguished Service Award recipients.
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