Champions Tour returns to place where it all started

Updated: May 8, 2003, 6:26 PM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- The latest Champions Tour stop should be tailored just for Jack Nicklaus. After all, he designed The Hills Country Club course more than 20 years ago.

Jack Nicklaus

But Nicklaus says it's been so long since he played here that he won't have much of an edge over the rest of the field when the Kinko's Classic starts Friday.

Still, he's looking forward to matching current wits and shots with the ideas he had when he designed the course nestled in the Texas Hill Country.

''It's kind of fun to see what your thoughts were 20-something years ago versus today,'' said Nicklaus, who hasn't played here since the mid '80s. ''But, it's not an advantage. There's about 20 guys in this field who've played this golf course a heck of a lot more than I have,'' he said.

He also thinks he did a pretty good job designing the par-72 course.

''The senior tour doesn't play as many good golf courses as the regular tour plays, but we're starting to play more,'' he said. ''So, when you get a good course, obviously I'm partial, you get guys supporting it.''

The Kinko's Classic, one of six new events on the Champions Tour, is making its first stop in Austin. The tour and Texas' capital city have a long history. Austin is considered the birthplace of the seniors tour concept when, in 1978, the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament was played at Onion Creek Country Club.

And the new tournament has drawn most of the tour's best players and biggest names, including Hale Irwin, Gary Player, Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. It's also a home stop for locals Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Terry Dill and Tom Jenkins, last week's winner of the Bruno's Memorial Classic.

Irwin said the field should expect a strong showing from the locals.

''For most of us, it will be a new course,'' Irwin said. ''Tom Kite is always a contender. And what better place for Ben Crenshaw to break through than right here in Austin?

''Of course, we're talking about second place,'' Irwin joked.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press