All he had to do was wake up and look around. The signs were everywhere.
Florida State Men’s golfer Jamie Li grew up in the beautiful city of Bath in England, known for its ancient architecture. It was once the hot spot during the Roman era – the spa capital if you will. It’s how the city got its name, coming from the Roman-built baths created many, many years ago.
Architecture aligns itself all around the birthplace of Li, but it comes in many different realms. On the golf course, Li discovered that architecture plays a huge role in shaping the game too. And he learned this by getting a first-hand look at the development of the gorgeous Seminole Legacy Golf Club at Florida State University.
“When the course was being re-built, we spent a lot of time out there,” Li said. “Coach (Trey) Jones helped me out with some of the holes when they were designing them, hitting shots and seeing where the ball was going. I was able to spend a decent amount of time with the architects and Jack (Nicklaus’) crew. I picked their brains about the reasoning behind certain slopes and bunkering – that’s something as a golfer you don’t necessarily think about – as to why an architect designed a hole in that specific way.
“I learned a lot about why holes are designed the way they are, and what architects like to see. How they like to see the ball roll on the ground. That’s not an experience many golfers get to have. I’m grateful for that.”
The development of the home of Seminole Golf really piqued Li’s interest. As a geography major, he took courses that fit into the architectural mold, but getting real-world experience as an on-looker to one of the nation’s most spectacular courses is something you couldn’t put a price on. Li came to Florida State as a wide-eyed freshman in 2016, but as a senior he has never been more sure of where his path will lead.
“I study Geography. I took a course last semester which while the golf course was being re-developed, it used similar technologies in a lot of ways,” Li added. “When the architect came in (for the development of the golf course), that’s when my consideration for something like that grew. I thought it was really interesting. It’s certainly something I would enjoy doing.
“Coming from Europe, I’ve played many different types of courses. I’ve experienced Links courses and other European courses and then courses over here, and I’ve seen how they’re all different. And my sister is an architect. I’m sure if I ever went into that field she could help me out with some ideas.”
Li has come into his own in so many ways since arriving in Tallahassee all the way from England. As a golfer, he’s improved his scoring average each year, culminating with an All-America season as a senior where he shot 70.39 – the fifth-lowest scoring average by a Seminole. He’s put himself on the fast track to playing professionally, although the chance for him to come back for a fifth year due to COVID-19 is an opportunity he doesn’t plan to pass up.
With international student-athletes, the hump could be a bit larger to overcome when you come to the United States for school. The way of life is different, your family is oceans away and the adjustment level can be daunting.
But for Li, he’s put everything into growing as a person. And the results have shown.
“It’s something that I don’t think would have happened if I didn’t come to college,” Li said about his personal growth. “It may have happened but maybe at a later stage in my life. Coming to college as an 18-year old is really different than anything you’ve done before. At the beginning it’s really tough. As anyone knows, the more time you spend being an independent person, the more you learn about yourself.”
“It’s been tough because their situation back there is different than here. They’ve been in lockdown for around a month now. They can’t play golf over there like we can here. It’s been tough being away from them."SENIOR MENS GOLFER JAMIE LI
During COVID-19, Li has been staying busy in Tallahassee as he nears the finish line to exam week. The access to golf facilities at FSU has made his time worthwhile during the pandemic, but sometimes it isn’t the easiest as he continues to look after the health of his family and friends back home.
“It’s been tough because their situation back there is different than here,” Li said of his folks in England. “They’ve been in lockdown for around a month now. They can’t play golf over there like we can here. It’s been tough being away from them. Obviously, I’d like to be back home with them during this time.
“At the same time, I have more access to certain things over here. There’s some positives and negatives to being here and not at home. My family is all doing well. My Mom and Dad have been able to work and my sister is at a university. I’m looking forward to going back and seeing them. I just don’t know when that will be at the moment.”
It had been planned for four years: When Li achieves his Bachelor’s Degree, his family would be in Tallahassee to watch him cross the stage. But like many students across campus, and across the country, virtual graduations are taking over. Undoubtedly, the milestone moment has been dampened for many students, but Li still takes solace in achieving something he set out to do.
Because that achievement did not come easy.
“I was looking forward to graduation. My family was going to come out and come see me for my graduation,” Li said. “It was upsetting to hear that it wasn’t going to happen and my parents weren’t able to have that experience with me. At the same time, I feel like it’s a huge achievement in my life. I certainly struggled when I first got here with my school work. I had a tough couple of semesters. I turned it around and my grades started to get a lot better. I really started to work at achieving a good GPA and getting high test scores.
“I feel proud of myself achieving what I have in the classroom and spending all that time on my studies and golfing at the same time. It’s not easy at all. It’s extremely time-consuming and you have to be organized. I think I’ve accomplished something really great achieving a degree at Florida State. And now I have an opportunity to get my post-Bachelor’s Degree. Not being able to have a normal graduation with my family is tough, but it’s still a great achievement and I’m glad I’ve done it.”
It’s just another example of how Li has found himself while at Florida State. On the golf course, in perhaps the most mentally excruciating sport there is, he overcame the hurdles of his inconsistent play as a freshman. He came to Florida State hoping to utilize his natural talents, but it took adversity to realize he needed much more than that.
“Year after year I’ve gained confidence on the course and felt comfortable competing in high-pressure situations,” Li said. “The thing with college golf is you get the opportunity time and time again. In the spring you get the opportunity week after week. The less I’ve thought about where I’m ranked and achieving certain honors, the better my performances have become. I’ve matured and grown as a person, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Now being a senior, and soon-to-be a fifth-year senior, I think I’ve experienced a lot as a college golfer.”
And it’s safe to say that when Li first started learning about the legends of the game, he didn’t realize he would meet one of them so soon. With Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II heading up the redesign of the Seminole Legacy Golf Club, Li has had a few opportunities of a lifetime.
“It’s been two times now which is really cool,” Li said of meeting Nicklaus. “He’s probably one of the people I thought I’d meet at a Majors stage in my golfing career. So it’s awesome to meet him in college and at Florida State, and to see how much effort and thought he’s put into redeveloping our golf course. Hearing some stories straight from Jack has been really cool. He spoke to us one time about some of his experiences at Ohio State. He told us a couple stories about his wins – there was one he told us where he won by more than 20 shots. You definitely don’t see that nowadays in college golf.”
Finding your niche in life is so important. By making the decision to come to Florida State, Li has grown in so many ways. The University is better for it as well, adding another Alum it can be proud of. Like the architect he may grow into someday, Li has been precise in his personal growth while proving he is a marksman on the course.
It’s something we all seek: Letting our journeys position us well for the future. And for Li, he appears to be on the straight and narrow.