Former Buckeye golfer tee’s it up in his sixth U.S. Amateur
by Geoff Shackelford for Golfweek
PEBBLE BEACH, California—Gary Nicklaus has teed up in six U.S. Amateurs but never supported by presence quite like the one in his Pebble Beach gallery. Because tagging along for all 36-holes over the storied course was father Jack Nicklaus, the golfer most associated with America’s most synonymous course.
Gary, 49, couldn’t help but savor the moment.
“There’s no better place to play golf than Pebble Beach,” said the 49-year-old. “The weather is fantastic, the golf course is amazing. It wasn’t my week to play but I hit a lot of good shots. The putter was not very good today. But besides that it was great being here.”
Following rounds of 78-78, Gary heads home to prepare for U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying discouraged with his putting.
His father understood.
“Poa annua greens can be tricky,” Jack said at one point while walking and talking with gallery members. “I grew up on them in Ohio so I’m used to them. Gary grew up on Bermuda. But Pebble Beach’s greens have been especially difficult for a lot of people.”
Then in a rare moment of welcomed immodesty, Nicklaus smiled and let out a hearty laugh.
“I never minded them.”
At Pebble Beach Nicklaus won the 1961 U.S. Amateur, 1972 U.S. Open and was runner-up in the 1982 U.S. Open.
Jack and Barbara Nicklaus—both USGA Bobby Jones Award winners—walked all 36 holes at Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach, with Jack only occasionally taking a ride in a USGA security cart. He mostly hoofed it, resting on an old-school shooting stick like his old writer pal Herbert Warren Wind. He posed for cell phone photos, did plenty of meeting-and-greeting in player dining, and even got the occasional “do you remember me?” types, including one promoting his forthcoming instruction book. As always, Nicklaus was gracious even though he never took an eye off of Gary’s play.
Upon finishing on Pebble Beach’s 9th hole, Jack greeted Gary and caddie Jim Sowerwine, a lifelong friend who had also caddied in the sectional qualifying. Placing his hand on Gary’s shoulder, the Golden Bear offered a few encouraging words and then chatted with playing partners Jeff Wilson and Noah Goodwin, who both seemed unphased hitting shots with the greatest to ever play the game on hand.
Asked for an assessment of Gary’s play, Jack reeled off some numbers.
“Gary actually hit the ball pretty well,” Jack said. “He missed a few fairways, two on each course. He had four three-putts yesterday and a bogey, double bogey finish.”
On the par-3 5th hole, with Jack perched on his shooting stick behind the tee of a replacement hole he designed in 1998, Gary hit his lone poor shot of the round into the hazard right.
“Today he hit it right on five which wasn’t a good place to hit it,” Jack said of the eventual double bogey. “But I wouldn’t tell him to change anything. I know he’s disappointed because I know he would have liked to have played match play, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
The Nicklauses and their famously busy schedule blocked off the entire week for Gary’s U.S. Amateur visit. Before heading on the shuttle ride back from the 9th green, Jack reminded Gary that the family made plans to be available all the way through Sunday. If he wanted to stick around and play Cypress Point, arrangements could be made. Alas, Gary and friends were likely headed to the airport for an evening flight home.
As for the Pebble Beach advice Jack passed down to Gary in practice, there may be a good-natured chat.
“I missed the cut so obviously it wasn’t what he told himself back when he won,” Gary said with a smile. “But he told me so many little things about how the greens break to the ocean, not to the bay. So many little things, but obviously I didn’t listen.
“I’m 49 years old and I’m still not listening to my dad.”