Playing College Golf in Style: Jack and Ohio State
I remember getting a sense of the special nature of Jack Nicklaus way way back. Still, the first time I ever saw him, he was already a pro, and I had no clue as to where he’d been. One important note is that the prime candidate for greatest golfer ever, is from Columbus, Ohio. He won everything there was to win growing up, and he did it over the best golfers around. By the time he hit college age, he was already a force. If you’re from Ohio, and you’re a force, the only reasonable collegiate choice is the Ohio State University, in Jack’s case, the Ohio State University Mens Golf Team.
Nicklaus is the son of Charlie Nicklaus, a football name at Ohio State. That’s a tough-minded sports university matching up with a tough-minded competitive family – a perfect match. Charlie’s son majored in pre-pharmacy, then flirted with the insurance business before striking out to support a family as a pro in ’61. In those college years, he won the U.S. Amateur twice, and was the only student athlete to win the Amateur and the individual NCAA Championship title in the same year – all between ’59 and ’61.
All these years later, the spirit of competition continues on the men’s and women’s golf teams, active among the top programs of Division I. Jack’s legacy, though, is about more than the tournaments he won as a Buckeye. He’s still around, mentoring and redesigning some of the most beautiful collegiate courses you’re ever going to find around the U.S. The two courses used by the university represent the colors of scarlet and gray, and the Scarlet course, in particular, carries quite a history, including advances in athletic opportunities for women.
Scarlet was built in ’38, and the Gray followed two years later. The first course was dedicated with Chick Evans, Blanche Sol and Patty Berg playing a ceremonial eighteen. That was big stuff, having PGA and LPGA champions take time to help kick off a collegiate program. In ’41, the Scarlet hosted the first ever women’s collegiate golf championship, and in ’82, the last Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Division I National Championship was played. In ’91, the Buckeyes hosted the NCAA Women’s Championship. The men’s team is every bit as active, an annual presence on the athletic university leaderboard, event to event. All in all, the Ohio State University courses have witnessed ten national championships, so you know something must be going right.
Jack, who was born in ’40 doesn’t appear to have any energy issues when he gets around his alma mater. In fact, he’s made a major renovation of the masterpiece Scarlet is, to the masterpiece Scarlet was intended to be from the start, by its stellar designer, Alister McKenzie. It is telling that the great Jack Nicklaus would not choose to alter his campus course to fit one of his new visions, but would restore it to fit the vision of its original creator. He’s lengthened it to 7,400 yards, and the bunkers look more McKenzian every time you look at it.
And why not? The Ohio State University has loomed large over the collegiate football world for the past hundred years or more. Every other major sport is represented with both men’s and women’s teams. The school is competitive across the board, and sitting there in the middle of Columbus where golf magic happens – well, it’s just the perfect place to play first rate golf on first rate courses. It is even said that sightings of the rare Golden Bear have been reported. Not many universities can say that.