Golf great Jack Nicklaus reflected on what Upper Arlington has meant to him as he became the first inductee into the high school’s new Athletic Hall of Fame on April 19.

“As I grew up in Arlington, something that was special to me was I got to play multiple sports and make lifelong friends from playing those sports,” Nicklaus said during a ceremony at Ohio State Golf Club. “The school was big enough to compete, and small enough that you could do different things if you wanted.

“The sense of community was very special. We never dreamed of playing at a private school in those days. We wanted to be in Upper Arlington.”

About 150 people attended the induction, including Nicklaus’ wife, Barbara, several lifelong friends, local dignitaries and both the UA boys and girls golf teams.

Nicklaus, a 1957 graduate, won 18 major championships in a 25-year career and also finished second in 19 events and third in nine more. He won 73 PGA tournaments, third all-time behind Sam Snead’s 82.

Nicklaus also played basketball for the Golden Bears, earning honorable mention all-state honors as a guard his senior year.

As a golfer at Ohio State, Nicklaus won the U.S. Amateur in 1959 and 1961 and the NCAA championship in 1961.

Nicklaus also founded the Memorial Tournament, which is held annually at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin.

“It was an understandably short conversation about who our first inductee should be,” UA superintendent Paul Imhoff said.

Future classes will include multiple athletes, according to athletics director Tony Pusateri, who added that nomination forms for 2018 and beyond will be released by early May.

“I will always be a Golden Bear,” said Nicklaus, 77, who now lives in North Palm Beach, Florida. “I am really honored to be inducted. I know there are a lot of deserving candidates. This is an extremely special honor.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave