Golf: Nicklaus junior falls short again

Tim Glover watches a painful exit for a famous name at the Open qualifying
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The Independent Online
Not even Jack Nicklaus could turn the water into wine. After nine holes the Golden Bear retreated to the clubhouse and emerged bearing a cup of water for his son, Gary. It had been hard work and it must have been as painful for the old man as it was for the son.

The 27-year-old Gary Nicklaus, a professional for five years but thus far no prodigal, was attempting to qualify for the Open Championship for the fifth time and once again he was consigned to the role of spectator. Yesterday it was Jack who was doing the spectating as he, and other members of the Golden Bear's family, followed Gary's progress in the final qualifying round at St Annes Old Links.

On Sunday Gary had shot 68, four under par, but with only 13 places on offer for the field of 120 he needed another sub par score to secure a place in the 125th Open. The skyline at St Annes is dominated by a roller coaster called the Big One. Yesterday young Nicklaus, who normally receives invitations to tournaments, had his fair share of ups and downs.

At the second hole he three putted and took a bogey five; at the short third he hit an eight-iron into the left bunker and took a bogey four; at the fourth he drove into the rough, advanced his second shot a mere 10 feet, hit his third into a bunker, came out with a sand wedge and two putts later recorded a double bogey six. He went to the turn in 40 at which point Jack administered the water.

Gary promptly birdied the 10th but despite finishing with an eagle three at the 17th and a birdie four at the 18th his score of 73 meant that he would not be sharing a locker with his father in the clubhouse at Royal Lytham. "I got myself in a hole early in the round and I could not get out of it," Gary said. He was asked if it bothered him, playing golf en famille. "I'd rather have dad watching than not," he replied.

At the same course Richard Boxall, who left the Scottish Open at Carnoustie on Saturday with an 85, equalled his record 65 of the first round. This will be his 14th Open and the 11th time he has qualified. "My intention," Boxall said, "is to gain exemption for next year and not put myself through this again. You can't relax. I could not even have a drink after the first round." He made up for it last night. Boxall, the drinking man's golfer, was heading for his best finish in the Open at Royal Birkdale five years ago when he broke a leg during the third round.

Christy O'Connor Jnr, well placed after a 69 on Sunday, walked in in mid-round yesterday, complaining of tennis elbow. "I could not hold the club," he said. At Formby Gordon Sherry, who complained of a bad back in the first round, shot 76 and headed for Kilmarnock. "I'm having two weeks off," Sherry said. "I shan't watch the Open on television. I hate watching golf on TV.''

Following a 73 on Sunday, the 6ft 8in Sherry had physiotherapy and yesterday he said: "I had no pain at all. It was just one of those rounds." He started bogey, bogey. "After that," he said, "you are chasing your score and you go for everything. The real damage was done in the first round." Sherry, who turned professional after missing the cut in the Masters at Augusta National, hid his disappointment well. This was a crushing blow.

Ricky Willison surpassed himself at Fairhaven, following a 69 with a 65 on a course with a par of 74. Willison had a hole in one at the 10th which measures 226 yards. He hit a two- iron. "It went for ever. I was saying 'please get on the green' and then the ball disappeared." It was his 14th hole in one.

When Willison won the English Amateur Championship at Southport in 1990 he practised by hitting golf balls off the beach. "If you are not swinging well hitting shots off the sand will soon tell you." He spent Sunday night here honing his swing on the beach. Willison was seventh in the Irish Open at Druids Glen two weeks ago after which he said: "I want the dryness of the mouth and a dodgy stomach that champions get. I felt it in Ireland and it was wonderful.''

David Feherty, who jointly led the qualifiers at Formby, has reverted to the broomhandle putter. "My putting all year has been appalling, dreadful, catastrophic," Feherty said. At Formby he shot 71, 69. "My putting has been a revelation," he said. "I feel I can hole out from everywhere.''

Paul Eales, attached to Royal Lytham, came through at Fairhaven with a 69. A large crowd followed his progress and Eales, who went through qualifying only to miss the cut in the US Open at Oakland Hills, said: "I was embarrassed because I was playing so badly." He repaid the support by striking a spectator on the head at the 17th. The ball rebounded on to the green and Eales holed from nearly 30 feet for a birdie two. That's what you call local knowledge.