Sunday, May 28, 2000

Five Questions with: Gary Nicklaus

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Gary Nicklaus, 31, is one of the leading rookies on the PGA Tour. But that's not how most people know him.

        Most know him as one of the five children of golfing great Jack Nicklaus, who won a record 18 professional major championships and founded the Memorial Tournament.

        Gary Nicklaus is a 1991 graduate of Ohio State with a degree in finance who spent most of the 1990s trying to make it as a professional golfer. He turned pro directly after graduating and tried nine times to make it through the PGA Tour's qualifying school. He got his Tour card last autumn, finishing tied for 12th.

        Along the way, he played on several tours around the world. He made the PGA European Tour in 1998 and last year managed two top 10 finishes on the Tour (then known as the Nike Tour).

        This weekend's Memorial is Nicklaus' 16th tournament of the season. To date, he has earned $355,259, which ranks 61st on the PGA Tour. The majority of that -- $302,400 -- came from a second-place finish at the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta in early April, but he also finished 28th in the Honda Classic and 40th at the Touchstone Energy Tuscon Open.

        The Memorial broke a string of four consecutive missed cuts for Nicklaus, and a 68 in Friday's second round broke a run of 10 consecutive rounds in the 70s. Working with teaching pro Rick Smith, he has been working to control his backswing and maintain his confidence. Nicklaus took a break from the practice range to answer five questions from the Enquirer's Mike DeCourcy.

        Q: Could you discuss what kept you going toward the Tour? Because 30 is not young for a rookie.

        A: Thirty years old is about the average age for the guys coming out here. The guys like Tiger and David Duval, these guys are the exception to the rule.

        For me, there were a lot of times when I wasn't sure I wanted to play anymore. And each time I kind of got to the point that I was going to go the other way, I started playing well and things would start turning around. Something kept pulling me back saying, “No, we're not going to let you quit yet.” Whether it was the golf gods giving me a few extra putts or what, I don't know.

        Q: So how gratifying was it, in that framework, to have a performance like you did in Atlanta? Did it say to you all the time was worth it?

        A: Yeah, it was a long road traveled, and the end result is something that everybody's looking for. Not only just being proud of yourself for what you've done, but also financially.

        When you're playing the Asian Tour, the European Tour, mini-tours and stuff like that ... obviously, I'm not in the same position a lot of people are in, but you still want to stand on your own two feet and not have someone supporting you. Now is really the first time where I'm in a position where I'm supporting myself and making ends meet without any support from anybody else.

        Whereas if I'd come out of college and gotten a job, I'd have been in that position a long time ago. That part's so satisfying, as well.

        Q: What do you want to accomplish, other than just sticking on tour?

        A: I want to try to keep getting better every day. That's important to anyone that's on the Tour. Tiger Woods is out here trying to improve every day. That's what any of us would want.

        I want to win, of course. I'll get there at some point. I will win tournaments.

        Q: What part of your golf game would you consider to be the best?

        A: Actually, it surprises me to say this, but I think it's my short game. I've gotten a lot better lately around the greens.

        Q: When you have an enormously successful father and follow him into the same line of work, do you just have to put that totally aside and not even think about what he accomplished?

        A: If I were to spend any time even thinking about following in my father's footsteps, I don't see how that would do a lot for me. There's no way I could think about matching what he did.


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