The Loop

Legends

The note the late Bobby Bowden sent Jack Nicklaus after winning the 1986 Masters is absolutely priceless

August 10, 2021

On Sunday morning, with all six of his children at his bedside, Bobby Bowden—the second winningest coach in Division 1 college football history—passed away at the age of 91 following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The flood of tributes from across the sports world was immediate and enveloping, but perhaps none more touching than Jack Nicklaus’, who shared a handwritten note he received from the Florida State ball coach following his iconic 1986 Masters triumph.

Can you imagine opening up your mailbox and finding a letter from Bobby Bowden addressed to you on Seminole Football letterhead? Well Nicklaus doesn’t have to. He gets to pull this out every day and re-read it if he wants to, and who wouldn’t?

“Just think if you retired, like skeptics suggested last year, you would not have won your 6th Masters!” Bowden wrote. “I hope you compete as long as you feel well … you ain’t through winning yet! Your finest hour?”

It’s interesting that while building Florida State into a college football powerhouse—a program that Nicklaus’ son Steve and grandson, NFL tight end Nick O’Leary, both played for—Bowden kept one eye on the PGA Tour at all times. He knew Nicklaus was being called washed up, and he also knew that nothing could be further from the truth.

As the old adage goes: It takes a champion to know a champion.