Jack Nicklaus plays Augusta, beats his age

By Greg Hardwig of the Naples Daily News

Jack Nicklaus can still play. Probably not a news flash, but the 76-year-old Golden Bear had a couple of fairly noteworthy rounds in the past week or so.

A month ago, the six-time Masters champion hit a ceremonial tee shot to start the Masters. On May 9, Nicklaus played the whole course at Augusta National with a business partner. Nicklaus shot an even-par 72, beating his age for the second straight round — he shot a 73 at a different event on another course before that.

“Of course, I played the front tees,” he said with a chuckle. “I play up as far as you can play. It’s a different golf course.

“That’s pretty good for me, for an older guy, below my age twice.”

Nicklaus, who made a site visit to The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club where is consulting on the major renovation of the course on Monday, was more concerned about how those scores were going to affect his 5 handicap.

“I keep ruining my handicap,” he said. “I keep shooting good scores. … That’s going to take me down to a 1 or a 2. I was very upset. I’ll lose a lot of money on that.”

Jason Day has been winning a lot of money recently, capped by Sunday’s dominating performance at The Players Championship, his seventh victory in 10 months.

“Jason’s got as pretty a golf swing as there is in the game of golf,” Nicklaus said. “He’s probably the most complete package of all of the guys. I think Jordan (Spieth) is terrific mentally and as a putter. He isn’t quite as fundamentally sound as Jason with the golf swing, but he’s good. Rory (McIlroy) is probably very fundamentally sound with the golf swing, but maybe not quite as good a putter as the other ones.

“Jason’s been pretty much the complete package lately, but the other guys will come back and win.”

Nicklaus particularly enjoyed The Players Championship from a different standpoint. Thirteen members of The Bears Club, his course in Jupiter, earned money at TPC Sawgrass.

“How about that?” he said.

Speaking of “that” while Nicklaus has quite the trophy case, his wife Barbara is catching up. She was honored with the Dave Marr Award as part of the Insperity Invitational, a PGA Tour Champions event, at The Woodlands in Texas on May 5.

Bryan Naugle, the tournament director, created the award in 1999 to be given annually to someone in the golfing community “who exemplifies all the traits Marr lived by — sportsmanship, honesty, character, integrity and a passion for the game of golf.”

“Dave was one of my favorites, as is his son,” Jack Nicklaus said Monday. “Barbara’s got a lot of honors lately. She’s doing really well.”

So is her husband’s design business. In addition to playing golf recently, Nicklaus was coming off a 33 1/2-hour jet trek to Belgium, two sites in Turkmenistan, and Morocco. He was home for three days, then went to La Gorce Country Club where he’s also doing a redesign on Sunday, then to the Beach Club on Monday.

“(Tuesday) I’ll go pass out,” he joked.

Southwest Chapter PGA Awards: The Chapter gave out its awards at its spring meeting on Monday.

E.J. McDonnell of Bonita Bay Club was named Golf Professional of the Year. McDonnell was recognized for his overall performance, level of service to the PGA, along with leadership skills, the ability to inspire fellow professionals, and promote the game of golf.

“To be recognized by my peers for this award is an incredible feeling,” McDonnell said in a release. “An award like this is about a lot more than just the individual being recognized. I feel very fortunate to have been supported throughout my career by our membership, co-workers, friends, family, and fiancée, Wendy. To be awarded this honor after receiving the Bill Strausbaugh award for club relations last year is beyond my wildest dreams as a professional.”

McDonnell thanked Jim Hasley, an Iowa PGA Hall of Famer, among his mentors.

“This award is a testament to the friendship and loyalty of all that have supported me during my career,” he said.

McDonnell started at Bonita Bay Club in 1999 as a member of the outside operations team, and eventually became Director of Golf in 2014.

Other award winners — Christian Sheehan, Pelican’s Nest (Bill Strausbaugh Award, club relations); Joe Groch, The Glades (Horton Smith Award, education); Jordan Burke, Cypress Woods (Jeremy New Assistant of the Year); Andy Scott, Andy Scott School of Golf (Teacher of the Year); Michael Chesnover, Kensington (Junior Golf Leader); Valerie Osborn, Bay Colony (Merchandiser of the Year, Private); Nick Stokke, Valencia (Merchandiser of the Year, Public); Rick Rainville, Tiburon (Merchandiser of the Year, Resort); Kelly Leonard (Henry B. Watkins Amateur of the Year); Dan Heaslip, Windstar (Vince Smith Award, low stroke average); Adam Miller, Kingsway (Player of the Year); Steve Waugh, Old Collier (Senior Player of the Year).

The Chapter also gave out its charity awards — $10,000, SalusCare; $10,000, FGCU PGA/PGM Program; $10,000, FGCU men’s and women’s golf teams; $8,000, Southwest Florida Junior Golf; and $2,000 The First Tee of Naples/Collier.

And the Chapter also gave out $11,000 to its senior scholarship winners, with each earning $1,000:

Duneshka Cruz, Marco Island Academy

Bryce Watkins, Naples High School

Lauren Lockard, Bishop Verot High School

Nickolas Porraro, Gulf Coast High School

Michael Chesnover, Fort Myers High School

Hannah Cunanan, Charlotte High School

Emily Black, Naples High School

Hallianne Hobson, Bishop Verot High School

James Laurin, Charlotte High School

Landon Weber, Fort Myers High School

Sydney Shrader, St. John Neumann High School

U.S. Open local qualifier: A total of 84 golfers are in the field for the U.S. Open local qualifier at Kensington Golf & Country Club on Thursday. They will be playing for five spots and two alternates.

One area golfer already has made it to the sectional qualifiers. Former Cypress Lake High School and Florida Gulf Coast University golfer Daniel Mazziotta tied for third with a 69 at Country Club of Winter Haven on May 4. He survived a four-way playoff for final three spots. Sectional qualifiers are Monday, June 6.

Tee times

No. 1 Tee

8 a.m. — Joshua Brunet, Naples; Jake Daly, Cincinnati; Dudley Hart, Naples

8:09 a.m. — Jon McDonald, Bonita Springs; Jake Pleczkowski, Naples; Christian Sheehan, Naples

8:18 a.m. — Sean McGinness, Fort Myers; Zach Golemblewski, Sarasota; Alastair Mackenzie, Scotland

8:27 a.m. — Brian Keenan (a), Tampa; Kristoffer Shane, Ruskin; Jake Myers, Naples

8:36 a.m. — Tate Smith (a), Port Charlotte; Matt Leiti (a), Naples; John Cochrane, Canada

8:45 a.m. — Gyles Robin, England; Carl Santos-Ocampo, Philippines; Adam Beatty (a), Naples

8:54 a.m. — James Desanges (a), Ave Maria; Justin Ahasic, Naples; Josh Pisarri (a), Naples

9:03 a.m. — Tommy Donovan, Naples; Adam DeArmond, Naples; Austin Schultz (a), North Port

9:12 a.m. — Philip Murray, Lehigh Acres; Craig Hicks, Naples; David Morgan (a), Naples

9:21 a.m. — Alex Holt, Muncie, Ind.; Justin Smith, Bonita Springs; Brandon Lee, Fort Myers

9:30 a.m. — Garrett Ruthig, Naples; Tom Bittner, Bradenton; Michael Claman, Fort Myers

9:39 a.m. — Andrew Filbert, Naples; Gunnar Benson, Naples; Jared Blocker, Naples

9:48 a.m. — Justin McCarraher, Fort Myers; Charles Beauregard, Naples; Alexander Medinis, Fort Myers

9:57 a.m. — Corey Weckerling (a), Fort Myers; Matthew Markle, Naples; John Andrew (a), Fort Myers

No. 10 Tee

8 a.m. — Brent Foockle, Cape Coral; Tommy Hurst, Miami; Landon Weber (a), Fort Myers

8:09 a.m. — Emilio Mariconda (a), Naples; Sebastian Mark, Bradenton; David Kent, Estero

8:18 a.m. — Michael Donald, Hollywood; Mark Chlebek, Naples; Justin Bertsch, Naples

8:27 a.m. — Steven Delaney, Delray Beach; Shane Reynolds (a), Fort Myers; Kyle Raburn (a), Bonita Springs

8:36 a.m. — Alexandre Giguere, Fort Myers; Peyton Graham, Naples; Jared Kobren, Lakewood Ranch

8:45 a.m. — Dylan Foster, Fort Myers; Daniel Butts, Fort Myers; Luke Farmer (a), Estero

8:54 a.m. — Morgan Dobbins, Jackson, Ohio; Ryan Layne, Fort Lauderdale; Anthony Pascua (a), Lutz

9:03 a.m. — Marcelo Jakubovic (a), Brazil; Tomohiro Kondo, Japan; Adam Crips, Toledo, Ohio

9:12 a.m. — Maurice Delisle, Aruba; Jordan Burke, Bonita springs; Evan Uram, Naples

9:21 a.m. — Richard O’Hanlon, England; Alexander Gove, Naples; Kyle Trautwein (a), Sarasota

9:30 a.m. — Preston Flick, Estero; Abdulrahman Sihag, Kenya; Ronald Ryan, Naples

9:39 a.m. — Kristian Caparros, Hollywood; Juan Aller (a), Venezuela; Ryan Celano (a), Naples

9:48 a.m. — Patrick Williams, Canada; Jay Westerlund, Bonita Springs; Adam Miller, Port Charlotte

9:57 a.m. — Jake Sherwin (a), Cape Coral; Cody Olson (a), Naples; John Lento, Estero

Fieger wins Senior Open title: Gene Fieger of Pelican Bay won the 29th annual South Florida Senior Open on Friday for the second year in a row at Jonathan’s Landing Golf Club at Old Trail.

Fieger shot 67-69/136 to edge Imperial’s John Lee by two strokes in the 50-59 age division. Jerry Tucker of Stuart won the 60-69 flight for the second straight year with a 134.

Fieger won a South Florida PGA Section event for the 15th time. Daniel Heaslip of Windstar was fifth with a 140. John Calabria of Naples was fifth in the 60-69 age group with a 145.

U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball: Emma Bradley, the Naples teenager and Ole Miss commit, will be playing in her first United States Golf Association championship, the Women’s Amateur Four-Ball at Streamsong Resort beginning Saturday.

Bradley is playing with Morgan Baxendale of Windermere.

Mary Jane Hiestand, a Hideout Golf Club member, will be playing upwards of her 30th USGA event. Hiestand, who hit the first-ever shot at the inaugural Four-Ball, is playing with Julie Carmichael of Indianapolis.

Teams play two rounds of stroke play with the field reduced after Sunday’s second round, and the format changing to match play beginning Monday. The semifinals and final will be on Wednesday, May 25.

The First Tee of Naples/Collier: The First Tee summer camp teaches life skills, leadership, and the game of golf. Camps are the weeks of: June 13-17 at Valencia Golf Course; June 20-24 at Vasari Country Club “Just For Girls”; June 27-July 1 at Quail Village Golf Club; July 11-18 Birdie/Eagle Teen Camp; July 18-22 at Panther Run Golf Club Ave Maria; July 25-29 at Cedar Hammock Golf & Country Club; Aug 1-5 at Hibiscus Golf Club. Camp is Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon. Open to all golfers, new to competitive, ages 7-18. Cost is $80 per week.

The First Tee Jr. Tour Schedule will be on the website by Monday, and will have 18-hole tournaments played every Thursday morning for experienced golfers ages 12-18. Fee is $100 for the summer. Registration and more information at TheFirstTeeNaplesCollier.org or email Lisa at tftnaplesleelisa@yahoo.com.

Men’s Summer Interclub: At Windstar on Naples Bay (5-13): 1. Mike Meehan (Naples Heritage)-Doug Backus (Gateway)-Mya Swe (Heritage Palms)-Jack Corris (Foxfire); 2. Jerry Druen (Miromar Lakes)-Tom Burns (TwinEagles)-Ed Hemsath (Wildcat Run)-Frank Castaldo (Cypress Woods); 3. Don Doolittle (TwinEagles)-Ed Uhl (Spanish Wells)-Norm Hine (Naples Heritage)-Rick Oddo (Lely Classics).

Next event on Friday, May 20 at Naples Lakes Country Club.

To submit an item, email ghardwig@naplesnews.com.

Greg Hardwig thumbnail

About Greg Hardwig

Greg Hardwig has been at the Daily News since 1997 and the sports editor since 2004. He also cover golf in Southwest Florida.

Avi Adkins

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

Recent Posts