The years 1962 to 1966 will be remembered for many things, the rise of The Beatles, England winning its only world cup, the cold war, but at the US Masters these years will always be remembered for the dominance of two men, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
When their 5-tournament win streak began Palmer was 33 years-old and already a tour celebrity, having won the US Masters twice and both the US Open and Open Championship once.
To his fans, the Latrobe Pennsylvania native was the embodiment of the American dream, coming from a modest upbringing to achieve great success. His rise coincided with the beginning of the sports television age and Palmer is often credited with being the first star of sports television.
As far as the golfing world was concerned Palmer’s victory in 1962 was supposed to happen, with he and South African Gary Player being the dominant players of the day, but that same year the golfing world was introduced to Jack Nicklaus, the winner of the US Open at Oakmont in an 18-hole playoff over Palmer.
On the course Nicklaus and Palmer had the same competitive zeal that glued fans to their televisions during major tournaments, off the field however their backgrounds were very different.
Nicklaus, the son of a pharmacist, grew up in Upper Arlington, a wealthy suburb of Columbus Ohio. At the age of 10 he joined Scioto Country Club where he received lessons from club pro Jack Grout, a contemporary of Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan.
Nicklaus put Grout’s teaching to use, winning his first US Masters in 1963 with a score of two under, one stroke better than second place finisher Tony Lema and five strokes better than Palmer who finished tied for ninth.
In 1964 Palmer won what would become his final Major leading throughout and winning in the end by six stokes over Nicklaus who finished tied for second. Although he came close on several occasions Palmer was not able to capture another major finishing his career with seven, 11 short of the eventual 18 Nicklaus would win.
Nicklaus, continued the US stranglehold onthe tournament winning in both 1965 and 1966.
Their run came to an end in 1967 however with Nicklaus missing the cut by one stroke and Palmer finishing fourth, 5 back of the winner.
To this day no names are more synonymous with the US Masters than Palmer and Nicklaus and with “The King” preparing to come back for his role as honorary starter for the fifth straight year and second along side Nicklaus, his battles with “The Golden Bear” will be reflected upon with the wish from fans that someday history can repeat itself.