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Gary Nicklaus gets father to play

Before he earned his playing privileges, Gary Nicklaus got into more than 20 PGA Tour events because of his father. This week, Jack Nicklaus is making a rare appearance in a regular tour event because of his son.

"I said earlier this year when Gary qualified that I would play a few more tournaments on the tour - just because Gary was involved, and I'd like to be there and be part of it," Jack Nicklaus said.

It will be the first time since 1991 that Nicklaus has played a regular PGA Tour event that wasn't close to home in Florida, at his own Memorial Tournament in Ohio, or at his favourite course, Pebble Beach.

Of course, it helps that English Turn Golf and Country Club is a Nicklaus-design, but the Golden Bear is most interested in seeing how 31-year-old Gary is progressing.

Judging from the money, he's coming along just fine.

Thanks to a runner-up finish in the BellSouth Classic, where he lost a one-hole playoff to Phil Mickelson, Gary is 48th on the money list with US$355,260.

The fact he's on tour, proving he can compete, is pleasing enough to his father. Nicklaus left some pretty large footprints, and it didn't help when 16-year-old Gary made the cover of Sports Illustrated billed as "The Next Nicklaus."

"Gary started playing well very young and then I think he got turned off by the expectations," Jack said. "I think it was a little unfair when he really hadn't won anything to be put into that position. To his credit he stayed with the game."

Gary was more than pretty good as a kid. He broke 80 at age 11. Two years later, he tied for first in the Palm Beach (Fla.) County men's tournament, and beat his brother Jackie, already on scholarship at North Carolina, by 24 strokes. He beat his beat his father for the first time at age 15.

But stardom didn't follow. Gary took nine trips to Q-school before earning his card.

"I was a really good player at 13, 14, and 15," Gary Nicklaus said. "But I wasn't as good as the attention I was getting. I just had other interests and took a long time pursuing them. It took a long while to figure out what I wanted to do and how hard I could work at it."

Gary bears a strong resemblance to his father: same build, same blond hair and blue eyes. When he's playing he tries to build the resemblance to his father's game when he was Gary's age. But so far that hasn't been as successful.

"I try to do a lot of things that he did early in his career, but sometimes I struggle with it," Gary said. "He played left to right his entire career. I try to do that but sometimes my swing won't let me do that. So I probably don't have the consistency that he had in that regard.

Gary says he doesn't putt as well as his father did, but that his wedge play is probably better than when his father was 31.

"I never had to use one," Jack replied. "No, Gary is much better around the green than I was. I think I'm longer than Gary, although he's plenty long enough. We both hit the ball up in the air off the tee. I think his iron game is a little straighter than my iron game." Gary has made the cut in six of the 12 tournaments he played in this year. He was tied with Mickelson in Atlanta when rain washed out the final round, forcing a one-hole playoff that Mickelson won with a birdie.

Nicklaus & Nicklaus are playing in the same tournament for the third time this year. The only time they played in the same group was in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where players can arrange their own pairings for the first three rounds.

They help each other with their games and still try to beat each other.

"But I hope it's for first and second," said Nicklaus Snr, "not for the player who gets the first plane home on the weekend."


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