Bear Bests Cubs in Round One

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SUNSET, S.C. (AP) -- The Old Man was the best Nicklaus of the bunch on the Nationwide Tour.
 
Jack Nicklaus, teamed with sons Gary and Steve and playing a few groups ahead of sons Michael and Jackie, shot an even-par 71 Thursday at The BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs. Gary, Michael and Jackie, all competing as pros like their father, shot 72 on the Keowee Vineyards course.
 
Steve was his father's amateur partner and did not have an individual score.
 
Despite 18 major titles and 73 PGA Tour victories over more than four decades, the elder Nicklaus was shocked to be ahead of all his sons.
 
''That's ridiculous, my time has passed. An old man like me shouldn't beat any of those kids,'' the 63-year-old Nicklaus said.
 
''We'll have to see if we can do something about that,'' said Michael, at 29 the youngest Nicklaus.
 
It was the first time the five Nicklaus men competed in the same pro tournament.
 
''Certainly, this is fun for us,'' said Jackie, at 41 the oldest of Jack's five children. ''We're not looking to take anybody down. We hope we all do well.''
 
Father Jack has a little work to do if he wants to win his first Nationwide Tour event. Eric Meeks was in the lead at 7-under par 65 on the Valley Course when play was suspended by inclement weather.
 
Eighty golfers still were to complete first-round play.
 
Nicklaus wasn't thinking a lot about family after he finished at Keowee, a long and hilly lakeside layout. While the 71 is better than his last opener of 85 at The Masters three weeks ago, he's as unsatisfied here as he was at Augusta National.
 
''And if you're going to play, you've got to want to play better,'' he said. ''You can't be satisfied with shooting a mediocre score, because a mediocre score gets you the weekends off.''
 
Still, part of Jack's focus is split when he plays with his sons.
 
''Play well, guys,'' he told the group before they began the round on the 10th hole.
 
Jack would offer advice or admonition to Steve, his celebrity partner. Jack crouched behind his 40-year-old son to line up putts.
 
When Steve drove into trouble on the 12th hole, his father held up three fingers and grinned.
 
''It was straight,'' Steve answered.
 
''Yeah, but it was the wrong club,'' Jack said. ''We decided that the other day.''
 
Nicklaus timed his words more carefully with Gary, a 34-year-old former PGA Tour member still trying to make it as a pro.
 
Jack stood quietly as Gary lost a drive in the woods -- pounded his driver on the ground -- and took double bogey.
 
Gary said his poor play didn't come from having his famous father nearby.
 
''It's always fun playing with my dad and brother,'' he said. ''It's never fun when you don't play well.''
 
There were some vintage Nicklaus moments. He hit a sand shot to about 8 feet and sank the putt on the 14th hole for his first birdie. Nicklaus raised his putter and pumped his arms as the ball rolled in.
 
Nicklaus' drive on No. 4 stopped mostly on a cart path. He pulled out a long iron, moved some fans and picked the shot clean off the blacktop into the fairway to the oohs and aahs of about 200 people.
 
''I hit it fat,'' he told them.
 
Needing to sink an eight-footer to get to even par on his closing hole, the ninth, Nicklaus calmly stepped up and rolled in the putt.
 
''I don't feel any different,'' he said of having his family on the course.
 
It was hard to escape the Nicklaus family anywhere.
 
As Jack, Gary and Steve waited on the 12th tee, the shouts from Gary Thomas Jr. -- Jack and Barbara's 15th and latest grandchild ''G.T.'' -- could be heard about 50 yards down the hole.
 
''We'd recognize his voice anywhere, Amy,'' Jack said to Gary's wife.
 
Jack's wife, Barbara, stood watching her husband and sons on the 18th fairway as Jackie lined up his approach on No. 15. A man on a cell phone moved past her as she watched.
 
''I just watched Jack Nicklaus hit a tee shot,'' he said as Barbara smiled.
 
''We had fun, we had a good day,'' Jack said. ''Hopefully, we can shoot a real low score tomorrow so we can play Saturday and Sunday.''
 
Related Links
  • Full-field scores from the BMW Charity Pro-Am
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