SI Vault
Edited by Cameron Morfit
July 12, 1999
The Next Next Nicklaus Thunder from Down Under
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July 12, 1999


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Woods's victory at the Western Open bolstered his Tour lead for best average finish in '99 but still left him far behind the LPGA and Senior tour leaders in this statistical category. Here are the players with the best average finish on the three major U.S. tours.



1. KarrieWebb



2. Juli Inkster



3. Hale Irwin



4. Gary McCord



5. Bruce Fleishcr



6. Tom Jenkins



7. Tiger Woods



8. Meg MalIon



9. J.M. Canizares



10. A. Sorenstam



The Next Next Nicklaus
Thunder from Down Under

Calling someone I the next Jack Nicklaus can be fatal. Just ask Bobby Clampett, the player of the year from BYU in 1979 and '80, who went from next to vexed to has-been in no time. But in February, after Gary Player had played two rounds with then 17-year-old Aaron Baddeley in the Greg Norman Holden International in Sydney, Player couldn't contain himself. "The best young player I ever saw was Jack Nicklaus," Player said. "I think this young man [Baddeley]—and I don't say this lightly—has the ability Jack Nicklaus had at the same age."

Baddeley has had success early. At 15, in the '97 Victorian Open, he became the youngest player to make the cut in an Australasian tour event. At 16 he was third in the World Boys Championship. At 17 he lost on the 18th hole to James Oh in the U.S. Junior final, then tied for ninth, with Shigeki Maruyama, in the Norman International. But is Baddeley the next Nicklaus? American fans can judge for themselves starting next week, when Baddeley will begin a four-tournament tour of the States at the U.S. Public Links Championship in Alton, Ill.

Baddeley was born in Lebanon, N.H., in 1981, while his father, Ron, was the chief mechanic for race car driver Mario Andretti. When Aaron was three, the family moved back to Australia, and they now live in the Melbourne suburb of Wonga Park, where Ron owns a car repair business.

Aaron, the oldest of three children, loved cricket but switched sports when he was introduced to golf by his grandmothers at 13. He lowered his handicap from 23 to six in less than a year and won the club championship at Croydon, outside Melbourne, when he was 14.

Dale Lynch, Baddeley's coach, knows what the Next Nicklaus label has done for Clampett, Gary Nicklaus and Hal Sutton, among others. "I don't like making predictions," Lynch says, "and in that regard, I'm not sure that Player's comments were helpful. A lot of young people have been destroyed by comparisons with legends."

The Baddeleys seem to know this as well. Aaron runs 15 miles a day when he's not playing and has imposed an 8:30 p.m. curfew on himself during tournaments, but his parents try to keep his ambition in check. "We don't want Aaron to be a superstar overnight," says Ron. "Early on he was so desperate to do so well so quickly that we found he wasn't living a normal life. We instituted Monday as a no-golf day—no practice, no rounds, no hitting of any sort. No golf videos or golf magazines."

Aaron also sounds cautious. "I'll probably wait until I'm 19 or 20 to turn pro," he says.

After next week Baddeley will play in the Porter Cup, the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur. He downplays the Next Nicklaus tag, but it might already be too late. In Australia, Aaron is called Jack.

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