Father Son 2017 returns to Orlando this weekend

Father Son 2017, Orlando,16th December 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Eighteen-time Major winner, former Father/Son champion and the most decorated player in the all-star 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge field, Jack Nicklaus, is set to make his 16th appearance in the tournament and his first with 15-year-old Grandson, Gary “GT” Nicklaus.

At the age of 77, The Golden Bear joins Arnold Palmer as the only competitor to play alongside a grandson having usually played alongside his sons, Jack and Gary, on alternating years.

Talking about the opportunity Nicklaus said, ‘GT is the only grandson that plays out of my 22 grandchildren. This year was Gary’s turn, Jack and Gary take it in turns and Gary turned to me and said I want you to play with my son, GT is only one that plays golf properly. He’s going to be a lot better than he is now but it’s going to be a great experience for him.

New for 2017, is the creation of a ‘Legends’ tee for competitors ages 70+, a decision made by tournament organisers and welcomed with open arms by Nicklaus. Spectators will now see the professionals playing the Grande Lakes course at 6,885 yards, the high school-aged competitors at 6,464 yards, and the ‘Legends’ (70+) at 6,089 yards.

Commenting on the change, Nicklaus said, ‘They haven’t moved them up enough to where it is ridiculous but they’ve moved them to where somebody my age should be so that’s good. We played half a dozen of my tee shots today and that’s six more than we’ve played in the last five years.’

The duo get their tournament underway tomorrow at 10:36, partnered with Lee Trevino and his son, Daniel. Nicklaus has a lot of history paired with Trevino and was complimentary of his game ahead of the first round.

Nicklaus said, ‘I have a lot of memories together, we’ve always had fun. I’ve always thought he was pretty good, a great striker of the ball, a great player, a guy I enjoy watching very much. I’ve always said Hogan and Trevino are the two best ball strikers I’ve ever seen.’

In contrast to Nicklaus, another World Hall of Famer to tee it up in tomorrow’s first round is Australian, Greg Norman, who enters the week having not played since 2008. He’s making his fourth appearance in the event and first since the tournament moved to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club alongside his son, Greg Norman Jr.

Talking about his decision to return to the tournament and their chances of winning Greg Norman commented, ‘We’re here for a reason. He is playing a lot better than I am. I started practicing and playing in the last three or four weeks. Each day is a babystep, getting better and better. Greg has been playing a lot of golf.’

Equally happy to be at the event and despite Norman’s efforts to talk down his form, Greg Norman Jr. was upbeat about his Father’s game.

‘Make no mistake, he stills hits the shots out there. His short game is amazing. He still drives it beautifully, 290, 300. It’s amazing to watch.’

The pair get their tournament underway alongside Irish debutants Padraig and Paddy Harrington at 10:00am.

Father Son 2016, Orlando, 11th December 2016 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Defending Champions David Duval and Nick Karavites return to the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Orlando quietly confident of defending the title they won in sensational fashion last year with a final round 62 (-10).

Lining up against a field including more than 500 victories across the PGA TOUR, European Tour and PGA TOUR Champions, 57 major championships and 9 World Golf Hall of Fame members, the pair took a look at the course today in the Pro-Am and continued to finalize their pre-tournament preparations ahead of the first round on Saturday, December 16.

Duval said, ‘We’re as ready as we can be. Would I be prepared to go and play in a U.S. Open, no, but I’ve done what I could to be ready for this week.’

Commenting on why they were successful last year and the family team set up this week, he continued…

‘‘I’d like for us for us to laugh and have fun like last year, we have the same set up where Nick’s older brother Dino, caddies for me and Brady caddies for Nick. That was one of the coolest things of last year. We didn’t have professional caddies that had mapped the course and the greens we had two boys and an eleven year old. It was cool. Our family is strong.’

Talking about how it felt to win last year and where the tournament ranked in his career highlights, which includeThe PLAYERS Championship and the Open Championship, Duval said,

‘It felt spectacular. As fulfilling as any. Had I won the Players or Open two years ago I might not have the same answer but when you’re on the back end of your career, eighteen years removed from some of these things, it’s a huge thing. We played well, I was proud of Nick.’

Tournament debutant, Justin Leonard, who is paired with his Father, Larry, as the only Son/Father pairing in the field are ready to make history as the first pair to try out the reverse partnership. Justin watched last year’s action unfold as a commentator on NBC and having spent most of the season off course this year, he needed no persuasion from David Duval to take his place up in the prestigious tournament.

‘I spoke with David Duval this fall about it and he said you absolutely have to come, it’s one of the greatest weeks beyond all the other stuff we’ve done as individuals. We got in yesterday and we’re already having a blast.’

A proud moment for Father, Larry, who admitted to feeling queasy when thinking of the opening tee shot added…

‘It’s just the greatest joy playing with Justin. I’ve watched him play millions of shots on the golf course before but to have to step up and hit one behind him, is a lot different. We’re looking forward to winning the son and father division as the only ones competing.’

Three-time former champion Bernhard Langer (twice with son, Stefan, and once with Jason) returns with 17-year-old son, Jason, having played last year’s tournament with daughter, Christina. When discussing how they decided who have selected who gets to play with the Champions TOUR legend, Jason commented,

The 2017 Father/Son Challenge field includes more than 500 victories across the PGA TOUR, European Tour and PGA TOUR Champions, 57 major championships and 9 World Golf Hall of Fame members.

Over the 19 years of the tournament, 24 World Golf Hall of Fame Members have played in the championship, averaging 66 percent of the professional field each year. The winning team of the two-day, 36-hole scramble receives the Willie Park Trophy, in memory of the father and son British Open champions Willie Park Sr. and Willie Park Jr. This year’s purse is $1,085,000.

Tickets are priced at $15 per day or $45 for a full tournament pass (four days), and can be purchased at pncfathersonchallenge.com or by calling (920) 632-8464. Active military receive complimentary admission, as do children, age 15 years and younger, with an accompanying adult.

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