Emotional Jack Nicklaus made honorary citizen of St Andrews

Jack Nicklaus St Andrews

An emotional Jack Nicklaus has been made an honorary citizen of St Andrews in what he described as one of his proudest moments as a golfer and a person.

Fighting back tears, the golfing legend spoke of his "mutual admiration and love affair" with the people of the town during his near 60-year career.

And he said he was truly humbled to have been given the honour in the home of golf.

The 82-year-old is only the third American to have been awarded the freedom of St Andrews after Benjamin Franklin and Bobby Jones.

And it comes 38 years after he was bestowed with an honorary law degree at St Andrews University.

Monday's ceremony also saw honorary degrees awarded to five other golfing greats – Lee Trevino, Sir Bob Charles, Sandy Lyle, Catriona Matthew and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Hundreds of fans lined the streets outside the Younger Hall in North Street as the event took place.

And they were rewarded with a glimpse of Nicklaus as he was driven round the streets in an open top Rolls Royce, accompanied by the City of St Andrews Pipe Band.

Known as the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus is regarded as golf's greatest champion with 18 majors under his belt.

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He won 117 professional tournaments, including three Open Championships, two of which were on the Old Course at St Andrews in 1970 and 1978.

And he has never hidden his love for the Grand Auld Lady.

Speaking of his first Open win there, he said: "I played well but it looked like I was going to finish a disappointing second to Doug Sanders until he missed a short putt on the 72nd hole.

"He allowed me to get into a play off, which I won.

"My golfing resume was now complete, according to Bobby Jones. I had won at St Andrews."

But his second Open win on the Old Course was even more memorable.

Nicklaus, who was accompanied at Monday's ceremony by wife Barbara, described the people of the town during that event as unbelievable.

Jack Nicklaus St Andrews 2

"They welcomed us with open arms from the rooftops, hanging out of windows as we finished," he said.

"I'll never forget that reception."

He added: "I then returned in 1984 and I was bestowed with an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of St Andrews, a wonderful honour.

"It humbled me then, just as you're humbling me again today."

The American had every intention of saying goodbye to The Open and major championship golf in 2000.

However, the then Royal and Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson more or less persuaded him to return five years later.

The championship was due to return to St Andrews in 2006.

"I said, 'oh gosh Peter, I'll be one year too old. I'll be 66,’" said Nicklaus.

"Well, the scheduling mysteriously changed and I was given the opportunity to finish my career at the home of golf, something I always wished I could do.

"Again, I was warmly received and welcomed and it seemed to be a mutual admiration and love affair with the people of St Andrews.

"I was on top of the world, thanks to you."

Jack Nicklaus St Andrews 3

And what an end to a remarkable career - a 14-foot putt for a birdie on the 18th green.

"As a young man of 65, that's how I ended my career in the game," he said.

Nicklaus's honour from St Andrews community council follows a suggestion from local businessmen John Devlin.

He described Nicklaus as one of golf's greatest ever players.

"St Andrews is the most famous golf destination in the world, where golf has been played for over 500 years," he said.

"The history of golf in St Andrews will continue to be written with the 150th Open Championship being played here this week.

"But the most important event this week is happening today.

"There is no more fitting a person to follow Bobby Jones in 1958."

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