Originally created 06/02/04

Less golf, more fishing is in Golden Bear's near future



DUBLIN, Ohio - Jack Nicklaus knows he will play this week at the Memorial, the tournament he founded and hosts. Beyond that, he hasn't made any tee times.

"I don't have anything else on my schedule the rest of the year," Nicklaus said. "I might play an odd tournament here and there, but only if the mood strikes me and I want to go play."

The Golden Bear, 64, is not so much tired as he is tired of not playing well.

Nicklaus withdrew from the Senior PGA Championship on Sunday outside Louisville, Ky., after struggling on the course he designed. He shot a third-round 76 at Valhalla and backed out after two bogeys on the front nine of his final round.

Early in his career, Nicklaus built his summers around the major championships. Now he enjoys a varied life.

When asked what motivates him these days, Nicklaus smiled.

"Frankly, I find an awful lot of competition in trying to catch a fish properly," he said. "It's something that I'm getting better at all the time - particularly with a fly rod."

Joey Sindelar, another former Ohio State golfer, won the Wachovia three weeks ago at 46. He grew up idolizing Nicklaus.

As sorry as Sindelar would be to see Nicklaus stop playing tournaments, he also admires the decision.

"I'm actually happy that he said those things. It's nice that he came to that conclusion," Sindelar said. "He was a slave to the game - in a great way, you know - but he did it all and now he says, 'This is a different time in my life for different stuff.' I'm OK with that. I think it's pretty awesome."

In April, at a Nationwide Tour event in Greenville, S.C., Nicklaus all but said his competitive golf days were over.

Too proud to play ceremonial golf while shooting high scores, Nicklaus said he didn't want to lower his standards just because of his age, creaky back, hip replacements or arthritis.

"If I go out and finish in the top 10, and that's a great week, then I know it's time to hang up your spikes," he said then.

"Winning is really an issue with me that is probably beyond my ability at this point in my life. And that is the only reason I ever play."

Nicklaus is met with thunderous applause at every green during the Memorial. He designed and built the Muirfield Village Golf Club course and helps organize and administer the tournament. He also has won it twice.

The galleries don't care how he's playing. They just appreciate that he brings the PGA Tour to his hometown.

"I'm always amazed at the number of people who walk up to him and say, 'Jack, thanks for bringing this to Columbus,'" said Dan Sullivan, the tournament's executive director.

Nicklaus said he might keep playing the Memorial even after he has stopped playing other tournaments. He has appeared in all 28 Memorials and again was the first to commit to the field this year.

Nicklaus has won 73 PGA Tour events and 18 professional majors in his lengendary career.

"He's been the best we've ever seen in modern tour golf - it's not even close," Sindelar said. "I know it hurts him to play golf. That isn't fun.

"It's an era that's going to be officially closed."