TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus’ connection to Florida State is as lengthy as it is solid.
One of the golf legend’s sons attended FSU, as did five grandchildren – including award-winning tight end Nick O’Leary.
And come next fall, there will be no mistaking Nicklaus’ legacy in Tallahassee for generations to come.
Nicklaus and his son, Jack Nicklaus II, are teaming up to redesign and revamp the Don Veller Seminole Golf Course, which sits about three miles southwest of Doak Campbell Stadium. The goal is to turn the 18-hole course, first established in 1962, into a venue that appeals to both championship events and casual golfers alike.
The two visited the course on Thursday and immediately began brainstorming ideas for tee locations, hole placements and obstacles. Future visits are already scheduled, and Nicklaus II said they intend to have the new course ready to open in the near future.
“What we found today was a nice golf course,” said Nicklaus, who wore a garnet FSU cap with grandson O’Leary’s jersey No. 35 embroidered on the side. “But I want to get a better golf course.”
Nicklaus said he wrapped his walkthrough with a few puzzles still to solve, but some things were immediately apparent.
For starters, the Seminole Golf Course, in its current iteration, features more uphill shots than he would prefer.
Golf, he said, is more pleasant when played downhill, and he intends to create as many downhill shots as he can.
Nicklaus also saw plenty of opportunities to rebalance the course, meaning a steady mix of long and short holes, as well left- and right-turning holes.
Hammering out the details might take a little longer than both Nicklauses expected, but it was clear Thursday that they’re satisfied with the course’s potential.
“We want to make sure that do right by this property,” Nicklaus said. “It’s a beautiful piece of property. It’s got great trees and vegetation on it. It’s got great views. We’ve got the opportunity to do something very, very special.”
In more ways than one.
In addition to his Hall-of-Fame career as a professional, Nicklaus leads a design firm that has created more than 400 courses around the world.
None of those courses, however, are on a college campus that holds so much significance for Nicklaus and his family.
Nicklaus noted that he missed only one of Florida State’s home football games during O’Leary’s four-year career (2011-14), and that was only so he could attend another grandson’s high-school game.
Nicklaus’ son Steve also played football for Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles in the early 1980s.
With so much of an impact on the FSU campus and football program, perhaps it’s only natural that Nicklaus and his family extended its reach to touch Florida State golf.
“Because of the connection with the family, it became a project that we really wanted to be involved in,’ Nicklaus said. “… We’ve got a long history here. We enjoy it. It’s a great university and we’re very honored to be part of it and do the golf course.”