It’s not often Jack Nicklaus can go unrecognized at Pebble Beach, but that’s just what happened earlier this week at the U.S. Amateur.
Erick Morales, a 35-year-old from Puerto Rico, was scrambling to find a practice-round tee time at Pebble Beach last weekend before tournament officials sent him out to join the last foursome of the wave. There wasn’t any time for proper introductions, so Morales didn’t know at first that he had linked up with Gary Nicklaus’ group.
He also didn’t realize that Gary’s 18-time major-winning father, Jack, was walking with the group.
“I get up to the first green and see this older gentleman,” Morales told The Man Out Front. “I thought it was somebody’s grandfather. I walk up and say, ‘Good morning, sir,’ and keep walking. My caddie later comes up to me on the green and says, ‘Did you know who that was?’”
Morales quickly went back to apologize.
“I told him I was so sorry and that I didn’t know,” Morales said. “He had sunglasses on and his hat. He was cracking up. It was hilarious.”
But wait, there’s more. Later on in the round, Morales found the rough off the tee at the par-4 16th hole. He then missed his approach shot right of the green, only some trees blocked his vision so he couldn’t see where the ball landed.
As he neared his ball, Morales’ jaw dropped.
“You almost killed me there, buddy,” Jack told him.
Morales’ ball had landed about 5 yards from the legendary golfer.
“First, I don’t recognize him, then I almost hit him with a golf ball,” Morales said. “Imagine that, I could’ve been on Wikipedia as the guy who hit Jack.”
Morales’ stay at the U.S. Amateur may have been brief – he missed the cut at 18 over – but at least he’ll have a great story to tell forever.