Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

Head to Head: Jack Nicklaus & Tiger Woods

Head to Head: Jack Nicklaus & Tiger Woods

When golf fans discuss the greatest golfers of all-time, two names prominently come up, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. Although the two played in different generations, with Nicklaus bowing out when Woods was beginning his career, their achievements on the course depict two birds of the same feather who came prepared to make history on the course.


Nicklaus grew up with an athletic father, Charlie Nicklaus, an all-rounded sportsman. Like his father, Nicklaus naturally became an all-rounded athlete, participating competitively in basketball, tennis, baseball, volleyball, football, and track and field.

Nicklaus’ golf calling came at the age of 10 when he scored 51 for his first nine holes ever played at Scioto Country Club. Aged 12, he won the first of five back-to-back Ohio State Junior titles. 

Nicklaus shocked many when he broke 70 aged 13, automatically qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur. Around this time, he earned a handicap of +3, recorded his first hole-in-one at 14, shot a 66 aged 15, and won the Ohio Open aged 16. 

Woods was introduced to golf at the age of two by his Vietnam War veteran father, Earl Woods. Being a single-digit handicap amateur golfer, Earl Woods automatically picked up the golf gene in his son and decided to nurture it. 

Thanks to his father’s military privileges, Woods was free to train at the Los Alamitos’ Navy golf course beside the Joint Forces Training Base, where he shot 48 over nine holes aged only three.

Already creating a buzz in golf circles, Woods clinched the Under Age 10 section of the Drive, Pitch, and Putt competition at Cypress’ Navy Golf Course before turning seven. 

At age eight in 1984, he broke 80 and won the 9–10 boys’ event at the Junior World Golf Championships, being the youngest available age group. He claimed the Championship six times and beat his dad Earl at age 11, who was playing his best, defeating him ever since. The star broke 70 aged twelve and met Jack Nicklaus as a young teenager, impressing him with his skills.

Amateur Level

In 1957, aged 17, Nicklaus scooped the International Jaycee Junior Golf Tournament, followed by two Trans-Mississippi Amateurs in 1958 and 1959. He also claimed his first U.S. Amateur title and the North and South Amateur trophy in 1959. 

In 1961, Nicklaus made history by becoming the first golfer to win the U.S. Amateur trophy and the NCAA Championship in the same year. A notable performance was in the 1960 U.S. Open when 20-year-old Nicklaus finished second, just two strokes behind winner Arnold Palmer.

In 1991, Woods became the youngest U.S. Junior Amateur champion, aged 15. He then successfully defended his title in 1992 and 1993, winning many accolades. 

In 1994, Woods became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur, similarly defending the title in 1995 and 1996, becoming the first golfer to win three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. 

In 1996, the 20-year-old champion won an NCAA individual golf championship and scooped a silver medal as the leading amateur at The Open Championship.