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Nicklaus grousing about ‘the kids today'

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Youths don't match up to old-timers' grit at British Open.

Monday, July 21, 2008 11:51 am
As I grow older, there's one thing I'm working hard to avoid, besides misplacing my glasses.I'm steering clear of Back-In-My-Day Syndrome.

It's that tone you use when you tell your kids you didn't have so many luxuries when you were young, such as video games, cell phones and parents who think it prudent to buy Little Leaguers $300 baseball bats.

It's the boring stories I try to avoid with young reporters, about how I actually had to keep my own composite Indiana University basketball stats, rather than just click a mouse on that there fancy Internet doohickey.

It's Jack Nicklaus at the British Open.

Now, I like Nicklaus. He's a class act, and he's taken his usurping as the greatest golfer of all time by Tiger Woods with graciousness and style.

But he lapsed into Back-In-My-Day Syndrome this weekend.

Nicklaus saw Greg Norman, 53, turning back time with his unlikely run, and Tom Watson, 58, and Tom Lehman, 49, shooting strong first rounds in hideous weather, and he couldn't hold back.

“If (younger players) don't win, they still walk home with a big check,” Nicklaus said. “They don't have to do some of the things the Watsons had to do, the Normans, the Lehmans, and that's to gut it out. … When we played golf, it wasn't to make a living. It was to make a name for yourself so you could make a living.”

Nicklaus stopped short of saying he and Watson had to walk two miles and back to the putting green.

But he still couldn't mask his mild irritation with today's whippersnappers.

“When I started on tour, maybe one or two guys might have made enough money to make a living,” he said. “Then it got to five or 10. Now, there's a couple of hundred guys who make a living playing golf. We had to really play well and scratch it out to be in position to get endorsements.”

So, Nicklaus implied, any hint of adversity and soft, pampered youngsters phone it in.

“The kids today play perfect conditions every week,” he said. “If they don't like what's going on, they're finishing 10th or 15th and still make a check. I don't think it makes them as tough.”

Nicklaus also added to the Associated Press reporter that he didn't want to criticize any of the younger players.

It was probably a little late for that addendum.

I'm willing to blame Nicklaus' statements on talking off the top of his head, which is what we tend to do as we age, without entirely considering the ramifications of the comments. Since Tiger Woods is out of commission, reporters have to find some other angles to explore. A few old-timers surging up the charts warranted a comment from patron saint Nicklaus.

Nicklaus' quotes probably sound more critical than he intended. He paved the way to elevating golf's popularity so more money could permeate the sport. It's natural for him to feel some ownership of that. Of course, there are pressures - and more competition - that face today's younger golfers that didn't exist when Nicklaus excelled. Progress comes with tradeoffs.

No matter what our profession, we all like to think our generation is the smartest, brightest, toughest, etc. It's not easy letting go of that when a Woods comes along and proves smarter, brighter and tougher.

Ultimately, it's futile to compare eras, in sports or in life. Better just to appreciate each era for its uniqueness.

With that in mind, I'll spare you the story of how we used to file stories about Nicklaus at the U.S. Open before the invention of the laptop.

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