Palm Beach County Am: Gary Nicklaus wins

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. (July 27, 2008)--Gary Nicklaus turned local knowledge into victory at the 33rd annual Palm Beach Kennel Club County Amateur Championship. The 39-year-old son of Jack Nicklaus shot 64-70 the last two rounds at the Lost Tree Club to win by two strokes Sunday (July 20).

“I’ve played this course more than any other anywhere,” Nicklaus said after the 64. He grew up just across Jack Nicklaus Boulevard, which cuts through Lost Tree Village east of US 1. “Whenever I go out to just play golf, it’s either here or at The Bear’s Club.”

After opening with 71 on the Heritage course at Ibis Country Club to trail by six strokes, Gary had to hold off a hard-charging teenager less than half his age, edging Daniel Berger, 15, of Jupiter, 205 to 207. A rising sophomore at William T. Dwyer High School, Berger pulled even twice the final round before finishing on 68.

It was Nicklaus’ first victory since regaining his amateur status in March, 2007. He had played on the PGA Tour for nearly a decade with a best finish being a playoff loss to Phil Mickelson in the 2000 BellSouth Classic near Atlanta.

Nicklaus won the prestigious Porter Cup in 1991 and turned pro later that same year.

“It was a lot of fun and that’s what amateur golf is supposed to be,” said Nicklaus, who had a gallery of two on the front nine, his parents, Jack and Barbara.

“Got home Friday,” said the Golden Bear, who had attended the British Open earlier in the week. “Lunch at Birkdale, home in time for dinner."

“I could see him climbing up the leader board," Nicklaus said of Berger's run at the lead from one group ahead and four strokes behind.

“Each time I pulled even, I began playing more conservatively," said BergerI realize now I should have played more aggressively. But I guess that’s part of the learning process.”

Berger caught Nicklaus the first time at the ninth hole with his fifth birdie of the day, lost two strokes at the par-3 11th with bogey to Gary’s birdie, then got them back with birdie at 13 and Nicklaus’ bogey at 14. Nicklaus got the advantage a final time as Berger bogeyed the 14th and 18th holes. Overall, Nicklaus made six birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Berger had six birdies and two bogeys.

Mike Weeks, the former head professional at Emerald Dunes, was third with 68-209.

Former County Amateur champion Mike Nealy and Flagler College sophomore Erik Downs tied for fourth at 210 on final round scores of 68 and 72.

Danny Germaine, the 2007 Player of the Year in the Palm Beach County Golf Association, and the first round leader with 65 at Ibis, added 72-74 at Lost Tree and slipped to a tie for sixth at 211 with David Abell, another former County Amateur champion.

The tournament drew 246 entries, including 16 exempt players. Three 18-hole qualifiers trimmed the field to 156 starters, including the exemptions.

After one round each at Lost Tree and Ibis, the field was cut to the low 60 and ties for the final round at Lost Tree. The cut came at 7-over-par 151.

--Courtesy PBCGA

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