Jack's Son Qualifies For Tour


The charge was vintage Nicklaus only it belonged to Gary, not Jack.

Gary Nicklaus, the 30-year-old son of the greatest golfer ever, shot a 7-under-par 63 in the final round of qualifying school Monday and earned his PGA Tour card for the first time in nine attempts.

"Now I get to see how good I really am," Nicklaus said. "I've played a few tour events, but I haven't played a ton, and I'm excited to get out there and move on to new challenges. Hopefully, this is the last time I ever come to this tournament again."

Blaine McCallister, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, won the six-round event at Doral Golf Resort by closing with a 67 for a 19-under 401.

The top 35 and ties earned their cards for the 2000, while the next 50 and ties earned a spot on the Buy.com Tour (formerly Nike Tour).

The fourth of five children, Gary tied for 12th and became the first Nicklaus to make it through the pressure cooker known as Q-school. His father never needed Q-school, having won the U.S. Open as a rookie and winning the career Grand Slam before Gary was even born.

"It's an honor to be his son," Nicklaus said. "Not only is he the greatest golfer who ever played, but he's a wonderful father and a great person. I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm sure he's pretty happy."

Jack Nicklaus, who had watched every shot his son played through five rounds on the Gold and Silver courses at Doral, missed the great finish. He was in Latrobe, Pa., to attend the funeral service for Arnold Palmer's wife, Winnie, who died Saturday.

"I've been telling Gary all along that he's a lot better player than he gives himself credit for being," said Nicklaus, who got telephone updates after each hole. "I told him to go out there and prove it, and he did. To come through the tour qualifying schools and to come through with flying colors now gives him the opportunity to take his game to the next level.

"Who knows? I might even take up golf again."

Qualifying school for the European tour also ended Monday at the San Roque Club in Spain near Valderrama. Among those who got their cards was 19-year-old Justin Rose, who tied for fourth as an amateur in the British Open last year.

Rose turned pro immediately after the Open at Royal Birkdale, then missed 21 consecutive cuts and didn't even get through the initial stage of Q-school last year. He rolled in a 45-foot birdie putt on the last hole to finish third.

"I'm chuffed to bits. What a relief," he said "This could end up to be far more important than anything else I do."

As usual, there were plenty of horror stories in the final round of what many believe to be the toughest tournament on American soil.

Brian Tennyson was at 10-under with three holes to play. He bogeyed the 16th, three-putted the 17th for another bogey and then hit a short iron over the 18th green and into the water for a double bogey. He missed the cutoff by two strokes.

Vic Wilk was at 9-under until he made a triple bogey on the 18th and missed his card. Brian Claar took a double bogey on the 17th to finish at 7-under, missing his card by one stroke.

Another prominent son, Dave Stockton Jr., bogeyed the final two holes. His 12-foot par putt on the 18th came up short.

"Tell me I didn't leave my last putt short to lose my card," Stockton moaned.

He didn't. Stockton wound up at 8-under 412, right on the number. Including ties, 40 players earned their cards.

The most impressive round belonged to John Rollins, who started the final day two strokes out of the top 35 and shot a 62.

"I had nothing to lose," Rollins said.

Those who failed to earn their cards included former PGA Tour winners Chip Beck, Ken Green, Mike Hulbert, Bob Gilder, Jim McGovern and Grant Waite.

Nicklaus started the final round right at the cut line, but made the turn in 4-under 31 and was steady toward the end.

"Considering the circumstances, starting the day on the bubble and having to shoot a good score, if it wasn't the best round I've ever played, it was right there," he said.

Nicklaus now gets a chance to perform on the circuit where his father raised the standard of excellence. From the time he went to Ohio State, his father's alma mater, he has grown accustomed to higher expectations because of the Nicklaus name alone.

"I've had media since I was 10 years old," Gary said. "It's going to be a different arena and a different crowd and more people, but it's just moving on to the next step, starting a new chapter and getting on with my life."

Nicklaus turned pro in 1991 and spent the past decade on mini-tours and in Europe. He played the Nike Tour this year and finished 70th on the money list, his best tournament a tifor third in the Wichita Open.

He also has played 25 PGA Tour events in his career, only making the cut twice.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed