The day before the eyes of the world tuned in to see Round 1 of the 2018 Masters Tournament, all eyes were on a teenager and his legendary grandfather.
On the final hole of the annual Par-3 Contest, played adjacent to the course of the year’s first major championship, Jack Nicklaus’ grandson, G.T., took a mighty swing. His golf ball sailed over a lake, landed softly on the green, trickled down the hill, and eventually found the bottom of the cup.
The crowd erupted and G.T. got a big hug from his legendary grandfather.
“With all due respect to my six wins at the Masters, when your grandsons or your kids do something, that’s more special than anything you’ve ever done,” said Nicklaus, whose grandson had never hit an ace in his life before that special swing. “How could you talk about a hole-in-one and then go do it? I mean, come on.”
During his career, Nicklaus slipped on a half-dozen green jackets right there at Augusta National. His golfing wisdom is coveted by anyone who loves the game.
Thursday, the most decorated golfer of all time paid visit to the First Tee of Tampa Bay student golfers to spend some time with them on the driving range.
“I know that he won a bunch of titles,” said Lailah Carr, who was the first junior golfer to hit a ball in front of Nicklaus. “It’s a good opportunity because that person has made it to the top so you can learn from them.”
Some kids were nervous to swing in front of Nicklaus. Others, like 14-year-old Joel Gonzalez, ripped 6-irons down the fairway without fear.
“My first shot was just perfect so he didn’t really give me (any) tips,” joked Gonzalez, who watches YouTube highlights of Jack’s big wins, including his Masters victory in 1846 at the age of 46. “Not everyone (gets lessons from Jack). So, it was really special to get that.”
Nicklaus smiled as he watched kids lash at range balls. Some hit pure, sweeping drives. Others dribbled the ball a few feet. The smile never left his face regardless of the result.
“I saw a bunch of really good kids today who all wanted to learn not only about golf but about life. I think that’s important,” said Nicklaus. “To me, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about golf.
“You can make a lot of putts but none of those are worth what those kids are worth. Those kids are going to be alright.”
Nicklaus spent about 90 minutes with the First Tee golfers. He signed an autograph for every kid who wanted one.
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