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Jack Nicklaus to receive honorary citizenship in St. Andrews during Open Championship week

June 05, 2022
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Jack Nicklaus poses for a portrait at the Nicklaus Family Office in March 2022.

Jamie Squire

DUBLIN, Ohio — Seventeen years after he ended his competitive career at the Old Course at St. Andrews, in Scotland, Jack Nicklaus will be granted honorary citizenship of the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews at a ceremony the week of the 150th Open next month.

It will mark the fourth award at the Home of Golf for the Golden Bear, a three-time winner of the claret jug in 1966 at Muirfield and in 1970 and ’78 at the Old Course. Previously, the 18-time major champion was made an honorary member of St. Andrews Golf Club following his victory in ’78, and he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of St. Andrews in 1984. Six years later, Nicklaus was invited to become an honorary member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.

Nicklaus will be honored as part of a larger ceremony at Younger Hall at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 12 that also will include the University of St. Andrews granting honorary degrees to Lee Trevino, Sir Bob Charles, Sandy Lyle, Catriona Matthew and Jose Maria Olazabal in recognition of their achievements and outstanding service to the game of golf. Trevino, Charles and Lyle are former Open champions.

“I’m absolutely delighted and humbled by the honor,” Nicklaus said at the Memorial Tournament, the PGA Tour event he hosts at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. “It is going to be a truly memorable occasion for me and my family.”

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Jack Nicklaus waves to the crowd as he stands on the Swilcan Bridge during his last competitive round in the Open Championship in 2005.

David Cannon

Nicklaus, 82, accepted the offer in December to become an honorary citizen from the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews Community Council. A measure to honor the Golden Bear actually passed three years ago, but the ceremony was delayed until this year because of the global pandemic.

John Devlin, a past captain and president of St Andrews Golf Club, will give a speech of tribute to Nicklaus on behalf of the town and the honorary citizenship will be bestowed in the form a scroll presented by the Provost of the Royal Burgh of St Andrews Community Council. Nicklaus also is expected to speak. Afterward, he and the new honorary degree recipients will participate in a public procession through the historic town.

According to a story in The Courier Evening Telegraph in Dundee, Scotland, the St. Andrews Community Council took up a resolution to make Nicklaus an honorary citizen during the 2005 Open, where Nicklaus played his last official tournament at the Old Course, but the measure didn’t garner enough votes. Devlin approached local officials three years ago about resurrecting the initiative, and this time the St. Andrews Council passed it unanimously.

The original plan that was proposed in 2005 was to grant Nicklaus the Freedom of the City, but that award, given to only two Americans—golf great Bobby Jones in 1958 and Benjamin Franklin in 1759—no longer exists because it was bestowed by the town council, different from the community council. The St. Andrews town council was dissolved in 1974. The honorary citizen distinction for non-residents was created in 2000, and it is considered the equivalent of the Freedom of the City.

Nicklaus played in the Open Championship at the Old Course eight times starting in 1964.

"I retired in 2005, and I had great memories and I didn't want to go back to St. Andrews," Nicklaus said. "And then when they wrote and asked me if I would accept being an honorary citizen, I couldn't turn that down. There's no way in the world I could turn that down, not with Bobby Jones and Benjamin Franklin the only other two Americans who have done it. So, I'm going back."