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Nicklaus family tee up at Nationwide event

Jack Nicklaus and his four sons will have a good opportunity to do some family bonding on the golf course.

"I'm always looking for a place to play with the boys and to have a tournament be nice enough to ask, I can't turn that down," Nicklaus said Wednesday.

The Golden Bear and his sons - Jack II, Steve, Gary and Michael - are teeing off at the BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs on Thursday, the first time this golfing family has all taken part in a pro event.

Jack, 63, holds 18 major titles and is considered the game's gold standard. But he's rarely put the game ahead of his wife and children. He vowed to wife Barbara that he wouldn't spend more than two weeks on tour away from his family and has largely kept that promise for more than four decades.

"If I actually had to pick my best friend, I'd pick my father," said Jack II.

Jack and his son Gary, both playing as pros, will join amateur son Steve for the first two rounds of the Nationwide's only celebrity event that includes actor Kevin Costner. Professionals Jack II and Michael will tee off in groups soon after.

"I guess when you have more than one Nicklaus in a tournament you have Nick-o-lai," said John O'Hurley, the former "J. Peterman" of "Seinfield" fame who's playing here. "I think it's created such a buzz in this tournament to watch them play."

It's not all a fun-filled family reunion. Jack Nicklaus says he's feeling better than he has in a while and hopes to scare some of the Nationwide's younger players with his old-school game.

After finishing a practice round at The Cliffs' Keowee Vineyards course, Nicklaus and three sons - Michael was driving at BMW's testing center - played the five holes they did not complete Tuesday because of rain. As his sons headed off to the 17th tee, Nicklaus was alone on the 16th green practicing chips from the sidehill rough.

One hole earlier when Steve went sideways with an approach, Nicklaus counseled him to keep his "left shoulder back and move your weight forward." Steve followed through with a nicer shot. "That was better," dad called over.

During walks, Nicklaus cooed at his 15th and latest grandchild, 7-month old Gary Thomas Jr. When the boy's father, Gary, stepped to the 18th tee, grandpa yelled to spectators, "Better watch yourself right there. Gary hasn't been playing a lot lately."

The only one missing from the family reunion is 37-year-old daughter Nan, a non-golfer like her mother.

The Nicklaus boys grew up tagging along to their father's practice sessions. They've spent years trying to defeat dad on courses all over the world. They're pleased they can share the family legacy, at least for a few days.

"More and more, you realize how amazing and talented he's been over his career," Jack II said.

 

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