WASHINGTON -- Someone once asked Jack Nicklaus's son, Jack Nicklaus, Jr., what his dad did, and a very young "Jackie" responded, "Nothing - he just plays golf."
Those 65 years of "nothing" earned him a Congressional Gold Medal, which was conferred upon the 18-Major-winning golfer in a ceremony Tuesday in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers cried, laughed, and applauded more boisterously than they could on almost any golf course in the country.
A few decades older now, Nicklaus Jr. spoke at the ceremony, making Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, sob alongside a crying, proud Nicklaus, Sr. Both men wiped their eyes with handkerchiefs as the younger Nicklaus listed some of his dad's accomplishments on and off the golf course.
Nicklaus is the seventh athlete to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. In remarks, lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, explained they honored Nicklaus not just for his excellence on the links and his spot in the record books, but also for what he's given back to the sport and to the world through his charity work.
Nicklaus himself pointed out that the Professional Golf Association has passed over $2 billion in all-time charitable giving. "We just play golf, and boy are we proud that we do," he said.
Along with his wife Barbara, Nicklaus heads the Nicklaus Children's Health Care foundation, a charity that provides families across the country access to world-class pediatric health care.
Boehner said Nicklaus deserves the medal for the way "he gave the game a gold standard, a ladder to climb" by "being the best in both victory and defeat."
The ceremony concluded with a rousing rendition of The Ohio State University's fight song, played by the OSU Marching Band. Both Nicklaus and the House speaker are proud Ohioans - Nicklaus graduated from OSU in 1961. Guests left the Rotunda tapping their feet to Ohio's state rock song, "Hang on Sloopy."