They are steps too big for any golfer to fill, especially one with the same last name, but Gary Nicklaus has never tried to live up to his dad Jack’s achievements on the golf course. He does, however, enjoy competing and was excited when he turned 50 on January 15, and was eligible to play on the PGA’s Champion Tour.
It didn’t take him long to get invited to an event. The Oasis Championship in Boca Raton offered a sponsor’s exemption to play in the three-day tournament, that begins next Friday.
Gary Nicklaus will join a field that already has commitments from Bernhard Langer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, and past Oasis champion Scott McCarron. He said is he looking forward to being back playing tournament golf.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for quite a while,” Nicklaus said. “I’ve kind of kept my mouth shut for a couple of years, but it’s been in my sight for quite a while, and I’ve really been looking forward to getting out there.”
Rough Living Up to Legacy
Nicklaus was always considered the best of Jack’s kids on the golf course and was a celebrated junior golfer. Sports Illustrated put him on the cover of the magazine with the headline “The Next Nicklaus.”
He followed his dad’s college choice and played on the Ohio State golf team, Before he turned professional in 1991 he qualified for the US Amateur.
Like on the PGA Tour, though was rough for Nicklaus. He struggled from his debut in 1992 until 2000, missing more cuts than he was making, unable to keep a tour card.
In 2000 he had his best year as a professional. He finished second in a playoff to Phil Mickelson at the Bell South Classic, and earned his biggest payday, $302,400. While he thought the money was great, he dad chided him about his priorities, the younger Nicklaus told a Florida television station.
“I’d be getting close to a top five finish, and I’d be thinking about how much money I was going to make,” Nicklaus said. “(I told my Dad how) the pressure builds up, and he’s like, you thought about money? And I said ‘Yah, didn’t you?’ And he said, ‘No, I thought about winning championships!’”
Second Act Hopefully Better
After failing to earn his card in 2003 and playing on the developmental tour, Nicklaus left professional golf to work in the family business. He did still enjoy the game, so he reapplied to get his amateur status back from the USGA. He began playing in state and national amateur events, including the 2012 US Amateur.
His eye, however, was always on 2019 when he would turn 50, and be able to play with professionals again. He told PGA Tour.com that he feels he can compete with the golfers on the Champions Tour.
“If I didn’t think I could compete at that level, I wouldn’t go out there,” Nicklaus said. “If I play well, I should be able to win a tournament. If I find out my expectations are wrong and I’m not that good, I won’t play there long.”