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Nicklaus To Heed Mom's Wishes

Jack Nicklaus was on the fourth hole when he got the grim news. He had been expecting it since Monday, when his mother told him she was ready to die after a lengthy illness.

At the age of 90, Helen Nicklaus had one last wish that her death not interfere with a big moment in her son's career.

Nicklaus said Wednesday he would respect his mother's desires and play in the PGA Championship, the final major in the final season he plans to play all four of golf's major tournaments.

"Her greatest fear in the last year or so was that she would pass away during one of golf's major events," Nicklaus said "I know her wish would be for me to stay here and play. I certainly would not want to not fulfill her last wishes, so I have decided to remain here and play in the PGA Championship."

Nicklaus walked off the course Wednesday after being informed of his mother's death following a two-year illness. He went into the clubhouse and received condolences, while trying to gather his thoughts.

Later, he skipped a previously scheduled press conference but sent word through Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA of America, that he not only would play Thursday but would attend a PGA dinner Wednesday night to receive the organization's Distinguished Service Award.

"That was her wish, for me to be here tonight and to stay and play here tomorrow," Nicklaus said. "It will be a big day for both of us. ... I'll have her in my thoughts. Maybe it will inspire me to play a little better."

Nicklaus said in a statement that he planned to fly to Columbus, Ohio, after Thursday's round to be with family members, and return to Louisville before his Friday afternoon round.

Nicklaus visited his mother in Columbus on Monday, and she told him that she was prepared for death.

The exact cause of death, and the nature of Helen Nicklaus' illness, were not released. She would have been 91 on Monday.

"Her heart just wore out," Nicklaus said.

His mother's death came as Nicklaus was preparing for his last PGA Championship, on a course he designed.

Nicklaus has said this will be the last year he plays all four majors. He has played 159 major pro championships, winning a record 18.

He is scheduled to tee off at 9:13 a.m. Thursday with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh. His Friday tee time is at 1:25 p.m.

"If it was a normal golf tournament, he would have pulled out without thinking about it," Singh said. "It is a difficult choice to make."

Ernie Els said he wouldn't have blamed Nicklaus had he pulled out.

"He's done his dut to himself, and his time is his time," Els said. "If he wants to play, he plays. If he doesn't, he doesn't have to prove a thing."

Nick Price said that the final wish of Helen Nicklaus "shows how tight his family is and that his mother knew all along how much golf meant to him."

A memorial service for Helen Nicklaus will be held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Mill Run branch of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church. Viewing will be Sunday at Schoedinger Funeral Service in Columbus.

Nicklaus' father, Charley, died in 1970. Besides her son, Helen Nicklaus is survived by a daughter, Marilyn.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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