ITwas to have been an accolade that would mark the end of the career of arguably the world's greatest golfer. But an attempt to make Jack Nicklaus an honorary citizen of St Andrews has instead been transformed into an embarrassing snub.

The home of golf has delivered the shock rejection to the American legend just months ahead of what could be his final appearance over the world-famous Old Course at the Open Championship this summer.

Twice a winner of the prestigious claret jug over the Old Course, the man known as the Golden Bear has praised the significance the town has in the game and his life.

He has said: "St Andrews always has a special place in my heart."

Another famous phrase coined by Nicklaus applauds the town's sporting heritage further still: "If you want to be remembered, you have to win at St Andrews."

Yet a plan to bestow on the three-times Open winner the honorary citizen title was stopped after members of St Andrews Community Council failed to support the idea in sufficient numbers.

Successful candidates for the award need the approval of a minimum of 16 votes and no more than four votes against in a secret ballot of all voting members of the community council.

However, the proposal attracted only 13 votes of support and four against.

The recommendation to honour Nicklaus was made by Keith McCartney, a former chairman of the community organisation, who said last night: "I am very disappointed that the proposal was unsuccessful. I believe that, as a consequence, we, as a community, have missed out on a unique opportunity to honour the world's greatest golfer in this, the home of golf."

Mr McCartney said that Nicklaus's participation at St Andrews in July could be his last appearance in the Open as he is now 65, and this year marks his final opportunity to be automatically exempt from qualification as a past winner.

The six-times US Masters champion first said he did not intend to take part in the event because he can no longer compete with the young stars of today. It is thought his son, Steve, persuaded him to change his mind after the death of his grandson, Steve's 17month-old son Jake, in a hot tub accident earlier this year.

Although former Masters winners can continue to play for as long as they are invited, Nicklaus insisted that this year's event would be his last.

Nicklaus was made an honorary member of St Andrews Golf Club in 1978, awarded an honorary doctorate from St Andrews University in 1984, and invited to become one of the few honorary members of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in 1990, to mark his outstanding contribution to golf.

His Open victories at St Andrews in 1970 and 1978 made him only the third man in history - the others being JH Taylor and James Braid - to notch up consecutive victories when the Open came to the Fife town.

His honorary citizenship, the successor of the freeman of St Andrews title, formerly awarded by the town council, would have been the first since its introduction by the community council five years ago.

Pete Lindsay, secretary of the community council, said that of those members opposed to honouring Nicklaus, some considered it should be given only to somebody who has done something for St Andrews over a long period of time.

He added: "However, there are no constraints on the scheme and people were free to vote against the idea if they so felt."

Murdo MacDonald, a former chairman and local businessman, added: "I feel we have been left in an awkward situation, as it now looks like a snub to Jack Nicklaus."

Donald Macgregor, chairman of the community organisation, said: "I think the whole matter is unfortunate.

"Clearly the council needs to look at the matter of these awards afresh."

It was in 2000 that the community council created two new awards: honoured citizen of the royal burgh of St Andrews, for those who are residents; and honorary citizen for non-residents.

The latter has not yet been bestowed, although two people have received the other accolade as residents.

If it had been agreed, a reception for Nicklaus would have been held at the Open in July when he would have received a scroll inscribed with the coat of arms of the community council.


The former St Andrews Town Council conferred the Freedom of St Andrews on Bobby Jones, the US golfer and first winnner of the Grand Slam, in 1958.

The entire RAF Leuchars base was granted the Freedom of St Andrews in 1968. The force exercises its right by regularly holding parades in the town.

Gordon Christie, a longtime local shopkeeper, became the first Honoured Citizen, in 2000, for a range of services to the town, including as a town and community councillor.

In 1998, Jimmy Shand was awarded the Freedom of Fife by Fife Council for his services to music and his global ambassadorial role for Scotland.