A Gold Medal for the Golden Bear

The Golden Bear was honored Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The Golden Bear was honored Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 24, 2015 at 5:20pm

An emotional Jack Nicklaus received the Congressional Gold Medal Tuesday, honoring his achievements on and off the golf course.  

“I played the greatest game of all and somehow, over the course of 65 years of playing, I ended up here today,” the golf legend told the crowd of family members, lawmakers and staffers gathered in the Rotunda. Nicklaus’ award received some criticism from conservatives when the House voted on the resolution granting the golfer the medal last year. Ten House Republicans voted against the measure, with some arguing the award should go to those who sacrifice for their country. But Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, noted Tuesday the award is open to those who excel in a variety of fields.  

“What makes this award so American is that anyone can win it,” Boehner said. A little while later he tossed a teary-eyed Nicklaus some tissues, and remarked the accomplished golfer was “worried about having a Boehner moment.”  

Nicklaus’ swing led him to 18 major titles, the most of any golfer, and six Masters’ wins, earning him the nickname “the Golden Bear.” His win at the 1986 Masters tournament is the stuff of legends, and was referred to multiple times in the Capitol ceremony.  

Jack Nicklaus II described carrying his father’s bag that spring day, and how his dad’s victorious moment exemplified how he always put his family first. “In the midst of this moment that was all about Jack Nicklaus, there stood dad waiting for me with this wonderful smile,” the proud son recalled.  

Nicklaus II, the congressional leaders and CBS sports commentator Jim Nantz also lauded Nicklaus’ philanthropy and dedication to expanding children’s health care through the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation and his dedication to First Tee, a youth golf program. The annual congressional golf tournament , which awards the coveted Roll Call cup, also raises funds to support First Tee.  

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., summed up the sentiments, saying, “Few sportsmen have been so dedicated to those beyond the reach of their game than the Golden Bear.”  

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