It doesn’t matter who dad is: To reach the U.S. Amateur, you have to earn it.
And Gary Nicklaus certainly did that.
The 49-year-old son of Jack Nicklaus got through qualifying Thursday at Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club in Naples, Fla., to earn a spot in next month’s U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. He did it the hard way, too.
Nicklaus fired a two-day score of 139, which only proved good enough to put him a playoff for the second and last spot out of the qualifier.
His opponent in the playoff? A 14-year-old named Luke Clanton.
Per Naples Daily News, the age discrepancy actually had Nicklaus curious if the playoff involved the oldest and youngest players in that qualifier field. Regardless, only one could make it through to the U.S. Amateur.
It would be Nicklaus earning that honor, as Clanton bogeyed the third extra hole to lose the playoff. That meant Nicklaus had qualified and Clanton was relegated to first alternate.
But Nicklaus had some kind comments after winning in extra holes.
“(Clanton) is a fantastic player,” said Nicklaus, per Naples Daily News. “I’ve never seen a 14-year-old as good as him.”
Those are some heady words, considering they come from a Nicklaus.
Gary actually has a son older than Clanton in Gary Jr. (who goes by G.T.). Back in December, a 15-year-old G.T. wowed with his musical abilities. But the teenager is a pretty good golfer himself, having shot 82 from the tournament tees at Augusta National and then, unbelievably, making a hole-in-one during the Masters Par 3 Contest three months ago.
We’re not here to give caddie advice, but G.T. as the looper for dad at Pebble freakin’ Beach? That would be pretty special.
The 49-year-old Gary, the fourth of of Jack and Barbara’s five children, has plenty of pedigree beyond his last name. He actually earned his PGA Tour card and was a member on the circuit for three years (2000-02). His highest finish in that span and overall on the PGA Tour was a runner-up at the 2000 BellSouth Classic – where he lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson. Nicklaus made nearly $700,000 in a 122-event PGA Tour career.
But he lost his card after the 2002 season and soon turned away from pro golf and toward the Nicklaus Companies, the family business (Gary remains involved there as a strategist and investor).
His amateur status was reinstated in 2007. This will be Nicklaus’ eighth U.S. Amateur appearance but just his second since his reinstatement. He qualified for the 2012 proceedings at Cherry Hills, where he missed out on a playoff for match play by two shots.
Of course, this year’s site is even more special as Jack Nicklaus won his second U.S. Amateur title at Pebble Beach in 1961. He followed with a U.S. Open win on the layout 11 years later.
Can another Nicklaus capture a U.S. Amateur at Pebble?
It’ll be a tall task, but Gary will have his chance.