Watch out golf world, there’s another Golden Bear on the prowl.
Growing up as a successful golfer at Upper Arlington High School, and now an All-American at Ohio State, Bo Hoag knows all about the original “Golden Bear.”
“I’ve heard people try and say that Jack Nicklaus got his nickname because he had blond hair. It’s not true,” Hoag said confidently. “A lot of people don’t know this, but Jack Nicklaus got his nickname from playing at Upper Arlington. It’s always been cool to tell people that.”
Like Hoag, Jack Nicklaus started off as an Upper Arlington Golden Bear, but Nicklaus’ career is a little more distinguished than Hoag’s at this point.
“He dominated on every level that he ever played,” Hoag said. “College golf was really different when he played, so it’s kind of hard to make those comparisons.”
Nicklaus won a national championship at OSU, and then went on to have the most decorated career in the history of the sport.
Hoag, however, has an impressive résumé of his own.
Coming out of high school, Hoag had offers to play for schools all over the country. He narrowed his college choices down to Wake Forest, Virginia, Northwestern and OSU before deciding that he couldn’t tell his hometown school no.
“Just growing up right around Columbus, and right around the school, I had a lot of Buckeye in my blood,” Hoag said. “It was really hard for me to see myself competing against Ohio State.”
Hoag has placed in the top 10 at the Big Ten tournament in each of his three years at OSU. He led the team in scoring average the last two years and was recognized as an honorable mention All-American as a sophomore.
Although Hoag doesn’t buy into the comparisons to Nicklaus, he does cherish the fact that he is taking the same path as one of golf’s greats.
“To have the greatest golfer ever to play, to have played at your high school and live where you’re growing up is great,” Hoag said. “It just goes to show that, for me at least, it obviously worked for him, so the opportunity is there and it’s not like it can’t be done.”
To Hoag, there’s only one thing that needs to be said to people that think Tiger Woods is better than Nicklaus was.
“I tell them that Tiger’s got 14 majors and Jack’s got 18,” Hoag said. “There’s not much else you have to say.”
Nicklaus and Hoag have crossed paths a few times before. Nicklaus has spent time with the OSU players and given them pointers on their games, and even sent Hoag’s entire high school team autographed pictures. Hoag still keeps the picture in his room today.
“I’ve actually gotten to play with him before,” Hoag said. “Well, I played with him one time. It was just a couple of holes, but I call it once because it sounds like a whole round of golf.”
Although he didn’t say who won the holes, Hoag did say that Nicklaus is still a fiery competitor, and was not just looking to go out there and have fun.
“It was just crazy to think that you’re playing with the best guy that’s ever played,” Hoag said. “Just to be able to see how he does it, not that his way is the right way for everyone, but he obviously was extremely successful. What better guy to learn from?”
Playing golf ever since he could remember, Hoag said he grew up watching the Memorial Tournament, and credits a lot of his inspiration to play golf to Nicklaus.
Hoag isn’t focusing on golf after college just yet. He has one more season left at OSU.
“Next year I’m just looking to improve,” Hoag said. “I want to win some tournaments obviously, but I’m not real big on setting specific goals saying that you have to do this, or you have to do that. I just have to work hard each day and see where that takes me.”
After college, Hoag plans to take a shot at his dream of playing golf professionally.
Hoag said he will likely join a qualifying school after his time is up at OSU.
“It’s the way most people get out there,” Hoag said. “You have to keep advancing through three to four stages, and you have to keep making the cuts in order to move on. The opportunities are out there for anyone, you just have to play really well to make it.”
Though his professional career is still years away, it doesn’t have to stop Hoag from playing in majors as an amateur.
“It would be pretty sweet if I could make it to the Masters as an amateur. That’s about as good as it gets,” Hoag said. “If you can place first or second in the U.S. Amateurs you get to play in the Masters when you’re in college, so maybe this summer I’ll be lucky to do that, why not?”