If Florida State assistant golf coach Matt Whall were to compare his career to a golf course, it would be the newly opened Seminole Legacy Golf Club at FSU.
The redesigned course opened this past spring after a comprehensive renovation under the direction of the Nicklaus Design Company. Since 1962, when it originally opened, the course has served as the home of the Seminole men’s and women’s golf teams. Its renovation has positioned the Seminole Legacy as one of the top collegiate golf clubs in the United States.
The Seminole Legacy is a redesign of the Don Veller Golf Course, with only one hole remaining from the original 210-acre masterpiece. The tees, fairways, rough, bunkers, greens and cart paths are all new. It includes two ranges and a 12-hole par three course for the Seminoles’ exclusive use on a year-round basis.
“The Seminole Legacy Golf Course is simply stunning” said Matt, who will enter his third season at Florida State in the fall of 2020. “The before and after images have no comparison. The course can play so many ways that every day the course will present something new. Those who play the course will marvel at the quality of the green complexes, the panoramic views across the course, its length and the sheer enjoyment of playing the course.”
Much the same can be said about Whall – an assistant coach for both the Seminole men’s and women’s golf teams – who in his two seasons at Florida State has helped coach during a golden era for each program. Not only has he tutored two of the top players in school history (Frida Kinhult and John Pak), but he has also helped lead both teams into the upper heights of the national rankings and to a combined five team championships (three by the men and two by the women).
Kinhult, the 2019 National Freshman and ACC Player of the Year, and Pak, the 2018 ACC Freshman of the Year and 2019 First-Team All-American, have combined to win 10 individual championships as Seminoles.
“I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked with many great coaches throughout my career,” said Whall, who describes himself as honest, creative, hard-working and as a critical thinker. “From my time in England, to beginning my collegiate career at Texas Tech to now working with three of the game’s absolute best coaches in Trey Jones, Amy Bond and Robert Duck, I am certainly a part of something very special here at Florida State.”
Whall began his collegiate coaching career in 2014 at Texas Tech, where he helped the Red Raiders to two appearances in the NCAA Championships in three seasons.
“Matt has been a tremendous addition to our program,” said FSU head coach Amy Bond. “His experience, along with his ability to connect with all the players, has helped us reach new levels. Matt has brought great new ideas to our program which have been very impactful on our success. Every one of our players has benefited from his knowledge and work ethic.”
Having responsibilities on both the men’s and women’s teams at FSU, Whall is a member of one of the more unique coaching staffs in all of college athletics. Through coaching, travel, administration, recruiting and academics, Whall is an integral part of both teams and has daily contact with their players.
“The game of golf is still the same no matter who is playing it,” said Matt. “But the numbers of ways the game can be played is limitless. To have such a mix of players open to all suggestions, and with all players and coaches learning from each other and working towards common goals is really fun.”
It’s a coaching system that works quite well, as illustrated by the overall success of both programs – and as evidenced by the relationship between each of the members of the coaching staff.
It’s a structure that also works quite well for Florida State’s high-level players, including three-time All-American Beatrice Wallin.
“He always knows what I need to work on to continue to improve my game,” said Wallin, a rising junior. “He is a great listener who put us as players first and is a great help with strategy on the course.
“He is really good with keeping in contact with us, especially during this time when our season was cancelled and we all went home for this extended period.”
While helping the Seminole men and women into the nation’s top 25 on a regular basis, Whall is also a devoted husband to his wife, Jenny, and father two children – son Noah, 2, and newborn daughter, Ava Paige.
“My family is everything to me and drives me to be better so I can give them everything they deserve,” said Matt. “I travel with the teams a lot and in between tournaments I travel to find future Seminoles in recruiting, so they all have incredible understanding of what I do. With two young children to look after, Jenny has been so supportive and encouraging.
“I have found the easiest way to create harmony is to fuse my family with the golf family, so we all can feel a part of the same movement. Noah, my son, loves to see the golfers and wear them out. I love to see my kids around so many great role models as they grow up. I am sure the programs will see huge success in the near future and the goal is for my wife and kids to feel every special moment of it as it unfolds.”
With his own family and his Seminole golf family built for success, Whall has found that Tallahassee has become home – a sentiment that he gets across to the recruits the staff brings to the capital city as they continue to build the program.
“The people are what make Florida State and Tallahassee great,” said Whall. “The weather is great all year round, the town is full of life and nature, and we are so close to so many adventures. Noah loves the trips to Disney, the beach or the parks and playgrounds.”
It’s easy, says Whall, to coach at a place he now considers home.
“Florida State is home,” said Whall of what he tells recruits. “If you want to feel a part of something special, a part of something bigger than yourself and if you want to be a part of history then there is only one place to be. The moment you set foot in Tallahassee you can feel ‘it.’ From the kindness and passion of the fans, the unique town, the top-ranked academic school and incredible athletic tradition, there is no better feeling than becoming a part of the Seminole family. This is home.”
In addition to his responsibilities as a member of the Seminole golf staff, Whall never stops learning and working to become a better coach.
“I certainly desire the opportunity to transfer everything I have learned into my own program one day,” said Whall. “The opportunity would have to be special to draw us away from Tallahassee.”
Whall is certainly a players’ coach.
“I have had a lot of fun working with Matt over my first two years and I admire the way he coaches,” said rising junior Amelia Williamson. “I really enjoy the English banter we can have while spending time together, which can also help calm me down when under pressure. Matt is a very approachable person which means that nobody is afraid to ask for his help. I really enjoy being able to walk up to a coach like Matt and say exactly what I am thinking and know I will be listened to.”
Greyson Porter of the nationally ranked Seminole Men’s Team agrees with both Wallin and Williamson.
“Coach Whall is one of the best coaches I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” said Porter. “He’s extremely hard working and that has a direct correlation to why he is so intelligent and great to work with. Coach Whall is a big reason for the success we’ve had in our program.”
Playing the Seminole Legacy Golf Course is going to demand imagination, creativity and skill. Many of the same things Whall demands from himself.