Jack Nicklaus (pictured by Getty Images), the 18-time Major winner considered by many as the greatest golfer in the history of the game, has been awarded Honorary Life Membership of The European Tour.
The American was presented with a silver membership card by George O’Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, at the announcement outside the Gleneagles Hotel in advance of the final day of The 2014 Ryder Cup, played over the PGA Centenary Course Nicklaus designed.
O’Grady said: “On behalf of every past and present member of The European Tour, led by John Jacobs, our first Director General, to Neil Coles and all our current Board of Directors, we would be honored if you accept Honorary Life Membership.”
“It’s an awfully nice honor,” responded Nicklaus. “I have supported The European Tour and fellows who have represented The European Tour all over the world, and to be part of that and honored as a member of that organization is very, very nice.”
Nicklaus was also presented with a plaque by officers of Ryder Cup Europe and the PGA of America to recognize his role in transforming The Ryder Cup when he floated the idea of changing the old Great Britain and Ireland team to a European team to Henry Poe and Lord Derby, the then-Presidents of the PGA of America and the British PGA respectively. That led to the introduction of Europe in 1979, and proved the catalyst for The Ryder Cup’s current standing in the game.
O’Grady added: “Both organizations would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the vision of one man who, in 1977, recommended to the President of the PGA of America and our President of the British PGA to consider widening the British and Ireland team to all of Europe.
“You have seen what the match has become now, with nine nationalities represented this week, and if one man had not taken that leadership to get Lord Derby on side it might not have happened. To recognize this on a course designed by Jack Nicklaus couldn’t be a more fitting occasion.”
Ted Bishop, President of the PGA of America, said: “On behalf of the PGA of America and our colleagues from Ryder Cup Europe, we are honored to be part of this recognition of Jack Nicklaus – the game’s all-time Major champion – who forever will be linked to the success of The Ryder Cup.
“Jack’s efforts to expand The Ryder Cup to involve Europe not only elevated the competition, but ensured its future. In the process, his efforts also resulted in The Ryder Cup being able to benefit multiple charitable organizations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
“On behalf of the 28,000 men and women Professionals of the PGA of America whose job it is to grow the game each day, we are forever grateful for the indelible mark Jack has made on golf.”
Nicklaus said: “I don’t know I played that much of a role. I took Henry Poe to meet Lord Derby and said to Lord Derby we have a great match, but you are now The European Tour and should include Europe. It created an event that grew tremendously and I am proud to be a small part of that.”
Source: PGA Tour