Nicklaus thrilled to be playing at Senior Open

Gary Nicklaus (left) receives some advice from his father Jack at a recent event. Gary Nicklaus will be in the field this weekend at the U.S. Senior Open at the Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame.

SOUTH BEND — Very few can come close to matching the golf excellence that Jack Nicklaus exhibited for years.

His son Gary is one of the many that have endured a share of struggles on golf courses.

The fourth of five children, the 50-year old Nicklaus, competed in 11 USGA championships, with the US Open being the only major he played in. He missed the cut both times he was at that event in 1997 and 2001.

Gary was honest about his golf career, the importance of family and touched on topics surrounding Notre Dame while speaking to the media Tuesday as part of the 40th Senior Open Championship at Warren Golf Course.

Nicklaus qualified for the Senior Open Championship for the first time after advancing through the Jupiter, Florida sectional qualifer. At that event, he birdied the last two holes and won the playoff.

"Turning 50 at the beginning of the year, I had aspirations to play in this tournament and play well," said Nicklaus said. "One of my goals this year was to be at this event.

"It was very, very satisfying to qualify for this event. I'm glad to be here."

Nicklaus has spent plenty of time on the course in preparation for the Senior Open.

"I came in Friday and chipped and putted for nine holes," Nicklaus said. "I also practice on the course Saturday and Sunday. The golf course sets up for plenty of room off the tee. The greens are receptive to good shots. You hit the ball in the wrong place you're in trouble. If you keep the ball on the short side from yourself and think well around the course it's a fair test of golf."

In his younger days, Nicklaus found his shots unforgiving and his frustration grew.

"When you go through life playing competitively all the time, sometimes, you can't see the forest through the trees. In my 15 years as a pro it never got easier.

"In 2003 after I lost my pro card I didn't pick up a club for four years.

"When I picked up a club again aspects of my game were so much easier. Maybe it took four years for me to process what I needed to learn when I was younger."

Gary's caddy at the Senior Open will be his son G.T.

"I don't know how many more tournaments I'm going to get to play in so that will be very special," Gary said about being with his son. "I had an opportunity caddy for my dad at a couple of British Opens.

"As an aspiring golfer it's special for (G.T.) to have the ability to come out and spend time with guys that were at one time the best players in the world and see how good they are and the work they put in.

"Hopefully, it will come down to the wire and we can discus strategy and I'll be near the top."

Jack Nicklaus is coming in Thursday to see his son play.

"It will be a big family affair," Gary said. "I'll be with my dad on the range after each round discussing a lot of things. My dad asked me a lot for advice when he was playing. Who knows your game better than the people you play with the most."

This week, Gary who was an All-American golfer at Ohio State University, made his second appearance inside the Notre Dame football locker room.

"It's hard to walk away from that place without having enormous respect for what's happening at Notre Dame," Gary said. "I'm less anti-Notre Dame than I used to be. It's a very cool locker room, but it's not as cool as Ohio State's."

Whatever he shoots this week at Notre Dame, Nicklaus will be content.

"I'm trying to become a regular on the senior tour, but it's not my job," he said. "I have businesses with my partner, which we own and operate. It's not a life or death situation where I have to golf for my family.

"But, it would be nice to win and put a little extra (money) in there."

 

WHAT: U.S. Senior Open

WHERE: Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame

WHEN: June 27-30

DEFENDING CHAMPION: David Toms.

PAR: 70.

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