John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, Marilyn Monroe was found dead and Ringo Starr joined The Beatles. A star with a different set of sticks was well and truly born 50 years ago, too; Jack Nicklaus.
The stage was the US Open. Nicklaus was a 22-year-old tour rookie from Ohio, with two US Amateur titles under his belt but without a win in 17 starts as a professional. Arnold Palmer, a decade older than this young pretender to the throne, was the undisputed king, an iconic figure with five majors to his name, including that season's Masters.
And the setting? None other than Oakmont Country Club, just a decent wedge from Palmer's home town of Latrobe in Pennsylvania. For Nicklaus to triumph in this neck of the woods would have been the golfing equivalent of barging into Arnie's living room, sliding into his baffies and plonking himself down on his favourite seat. And that's essentially what he did.
An 18-hole play-off triumph over Palmer, in front of a partisan crowd, earned Nicklaus his first professional win and provided the spark that would ignite the game's greatest rivalry. The kindling for future sparring matches had been laid down two years earlier when, as an amateur, Nicklaus finished second to Palmer in the 1960 championship. But Oakmont was where the Golden Bear finally roared at full blast and Palmer knew this particular sporting beast would take some taming. "Now that the big guy is out of the cage, everybody better run for cover," he said in the aftermath of that historic day.
In Palmer's backyard, and with Arnie's Army occasionally taunting the incoming upstart with cries of "Fat Jack", Nicklaus stood firm in the face of this hostility from the sidelines. "It was one thing to cheer for Arnold, but quite another to cheer as harshly against Jack as they did," reflected Gary Player, the South African who filled out what became the era's so-called Big Three. "There's no place for that in golf. It's supposed to be a gentlemen's game."
Having forced the play-off at the conclusion of the regulation 72-holes, Nicklaus out-drove his superior by some 30 yards on the first hole of the extra 18 and never looked back. The first of what would turn out to be a record haul of 18 major crowns was his.
"I was a 22-year-old kid with blinkers on," he recalled. "People ask me about Arnold's backyard, Arnold's gallery. I never heard it. I was just trying to win a tournament. I looked back and said 'Wow! Look what happened'. It's amazing, that's my first win."
Half a century ago, Nicklaus was a young golfing prince. Today, the 72-year-old remains the king of the majors with that remarkable plunder. This week in San Francisco, Nicklaus will be an eager observer as Tiger Woods launches another assault on that particular crown. The former world No.1 has been stuck on 14 grand-slam wins since lifting the 2008 US Open. "I think even if I do win a major championship, it will still be, 'you're not to 18 yet' or 'when will you get to 19?" suggested Woods.
Galvanised by his victory in Nicklaus' own Memorial Tournament recently – a triumph that gave him 73 PGA Tour wins, the same number as Nicklaus – Woods has renewed vigour in his quest for the ultimate glory and, given that Nicklaus claimed the last of his majors, the 1986 Masters, as a 40-something, the 36-year-old believes he has time on his side. "Jack did it at 46, right?" he said. "So I've got 10 years."
In Nicklaus' golden anniversary year, Woods is still playing catch-up.