Jack Nicklaus looked up to Hope College golfer Josh Gibson as he presented him the NCAA Division III Player of the Year Award - prompting a quick quip about the weather up there.
The playful question — as well as compliments — from a golfing legend added a few more unforgettable moments to cherish this weekend in Dublin, Ohio, near Columbus.
Gibson was one of five golfers to be presented their national honor from Nicklaus during the PGA Tour's Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club, founded by Nicklaus. A Big Ten and NCAA Champion at The Ohio State University, Nicklaus helped inspire and create the Jack Nicklaus Award in 1988.
"It's neat every year to have these young men here," said Nicklaus, referring to Gibson and fellow honorees Norman Xiong of Oregon (NCAA Division I), Florida Southern's John VanDerLaan (NCAA Division II), Dalton State's SM Lee (NAIA), and Midland College's Callum Bruce (National Junior College Athletic Association).
"We're seeing the stars of the future, the golfers we're going to see here at the Memorial tournament for years to come, probably quicker than I think. Congratulations to all of them. I wish them continued luck."
Photo of Jack Nicklaus and Josh Gibson by Alan Babbitt
All five golfers expressed aspirations to play on the PGA Tour. Xiong recently turned professional. Gibson is considering the same, but after he completes his senior year at Hope and his studies in electrical engineering.
Gibson joins a prestigious group that includes past winners such as Tiger Woods (1996), Phil Mickelson (1990-92), Hunter Mahan (2003), and Justin Thomas (2012). Nicklaus honorees have combined for more than 200 victories worldwide and earned 23 major championships.
Hope's first national golfer of the year and 2017 NCAA national champion was joined at the ceremony by his parents, Joel and Lori, his brother James, and his two college golf coaches: Scott Lokers and Bob Ebels (retired).
Gibson's name will be engraved on a trophy of Jack Nicklaus Trophy that is displayed at Muirfield Village. He received a replica trophy that featured Nicklaus and his golf swing.
"Getting to meet Mr. Nicklaus is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Gibson said of Nicklaus, the record-holder with 18 victories in men's majors. "I heard a lot about him, but it's cool to finally meet him."
As part of being a Nicklaus Award winner, Gibson competed in the Barbasol Shootout at Scioto Country Club — the home course for Nicklaus during his youth — for a chance at an exemption to a PGA Tour event in July in Kentucky. Gibson shot a 5-over-par 75 on Saturday and did not qualify, but enjoyed the opportunity and the moment nonetheless.
"It's cool to see all the hard work pay off," Gibson said, reflecting on a year that included winning a national title in a playoff as a sophomore, shooting school-record rounds of 61 and 64 last fall and helping his team post its second consecutive highest finish at nationals with a sixth-place effort. He averaged 70.5 strokes per round as a junior.
"It was a great season."