In Oregon, golf means Peter Jacobsen
If life is about accomplishments, experiences and relationships, Peter Jacobsen is near the top of the fulfillment list in the golfing world.
Jacobsen is the most famous name in the state of Oregon's long history with the game of golf. The 65-year-old Lincoln High grad was a Pac-8 champion at the University of Oregon, scored seven wins on the PGA Tour and has compiled nearly $8 million in earnings in a professional playing career that has spanned 44 years.
Jacobsen twice finished third in the PGA Championship, was the PGA Tour's Comeback Player of the Year in 2003 and was twice runner-up to Hale Irwin in majors on the Champions Tour — at the 2004 U.S. Senior Open and the 2005 Senior Players Championship.
In 2013, Jacobsen earned the prestigious Payne Stewart Award for charity, character and sportsmanship.
That's only part of it.
From 1986-2002, Jacobsen was the tournament director and organizer of the Fred Meyer Challenge, which brought the world's premier golfers to Portland.
He owns Peter Jacobsen Sports, an event management company that began in 1988.
He has been active in golf broadcasting for more than four decades and has been involved with the design of several golf courses through the years, including The Oregon Golf Club in West Linn.
Golf has allowed Jacobsen to rub shoulders with many famous names in the entertainment and music industries. He has acted in movies, cut albums and traveled the world, all made possible because of his extraordinary ability to hit the little white ball.
"I don't take it for granted," says Jacobsen, who has lived near Naples, Florida, for the past 15 years, and recently visited Portland. "I'm very fortunate to have been given these opportunities.
"Some people have said, 'Gosh, if you hadn't done all this other stuff, maybe you'd have been a better player.' I say all the outside activities made me the player I am. It made me comfortable in situations I may never have been in."
Jacobsen has played golf with five presidents. He has paired in what is now the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Jack Lemmon, Clint Eastwood, George C. Scott and Huey Lewis. He has acted in movies with Kevin Costner, Don Johnson and Randy Quaid. He has played music alongside the likes of Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Glenn Frey, Darius Rucker and Alice Cooper. He has broadcast golf with Vin Scully and Johnny Miller. Aside from helping Dr. Christiaan Barnard perform open heart surgery, Jacobsen has pretty much done it all.
Peter and brother David Jacobsen — one of the finest amateur golfers in Portland for many years — credit their late father, Erling Jacobsen, with teaching them a valuable lesson about life through golf.
"When we were young, we'd play with people from various age groups," Peter says. "When Dad was in his 50s and we were teenagers, we learned that golf connected all different ages and backgrounds because of a love of the game of golf.
"I still see that today. Whenever we play tournaments or I'm around the majors, there are all different kinds of people together in one room or in a foursome because of the game of golf."
During his recent visit to his hometown, he helped coordinate the second annual Peter Jacobsen 1-club tournament at Eastmoreland Golf Course. The event benefits the Oregon and Southwest Washington "Youth on Course" program. Last year, the program subsidized 1,200 youths aged 7 to 18, allowing each junior to play a round of golf for $5. In addition, the Erling Jacobsen Tour plays host to 16 noncompetitive golf outings through the summer. Before each event, the participant is reminded about golf etiquette.
"It's a great way to get kids out there to play golf," Peter says. "David, who does most of the work in coordinating the program, is so passionate about the game of golf and getting kids involved.
"We both believe our whole life trajectory was because of the game of golf. We learned etiquette, sportsmanship, self-reliance, responsibility. When they play the game of golf, kids learn how to play by the rules, and that's what life is all about."
Peter has been playing in 1-club tournaments since participating in the one coordinated by former KGW sportscaster Doug LaMear in the '70s, using a 6-iron.
"It teaches you how to become a shotmaker," Jacobsen says. "The best (1-club) score I've ever shot at Eastmoreland was a 76 or 77. That's getting it up and down a lot. There's a lot of strategy. If you're playing a par-3, you have to learn how to hit a soft 6-iron to a 130-yard hole. Or on a par-5, you have to rip two 6-irons, or hit a short second shot so you can hit a full 6-iron to the green. It's hard to break 80."
Erling Jacobsen was an insurance agent who was a fine golfer but didn't play competitively. He taught wife Barbara and their four children — David, Peter, Paul and Susan — the game of golf. Barbara became a club champion at Waverley. David, 66, played with Peter at Oregon. All the Jacobsens could play the game.
"At one point, we had a ridiculously low family handicap — I think 24," Peter says.
The senior Jacobsen wasn't sure about Peter trying to make a career out of golf.
Says Peter: "David and I would play well in a tournament, maybe get third or fourth, but we'd come home and Dad would say, 'If you guys can't win these tournaments, why are you taking time away from school? You'd be better off to get your degree and play golf for fun but get into business.'"
Peter didn't take his father's advice. After his senior year at Oregon, he played some mini-tour events and gained his PGA Tour card on his first try in December 1976.
"People think it's a chance to chase your dreams," Jacobsen says. "For me, it was an opportunity to spend a lot of money and make none.
"But I learned how to play. I tried to learn from the best and play with the best, to steal from what they did."
Through the years, Jacobsen has played Ryder Cup, contended at majors and played nearly every famous course in the world.
"When I look back over my 44 years, it's been a dream come true," he says. "I never expected it. I wasn't like kids coming out college like Jerry Pate or Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods or Ben Crenshaw or Curtis Strange — guys destined for success. I'm proud that I came out, I worked hard and learned how to do it."
One of Jacobsen's biggest triumphs was winning the Greater Hartford Open at age 49.
"Totally unexpected," he says. "I was thinking about just playing my way through until I hit the Champions Tour (at 50). It was like, 'Wow, where did that come from?'
"But it was great. It allowed me stay on (the PGA) tour into my 52nd year. When you get close to 50, you want to keep playing with the PGA Tour. You want to play against the very best. But pretty soon, Father Time starts catching up to you. You can't hit it as far, and you can't do the things you could when you were 25 or 35. When you turn 60, it's that much more difficult."
Jacobsen started battling injuries at a much earlier stage.
"My body started breaking down at about 40," he says. "At 65, I've had my left hip replaced twice, a knee replaced, seven back surgeries and a torn rotator cuff in left shoulder. When people say golf doesn't beat up your body, I tend to disagree. There's so much torque going on. Your feet are firmly planted on the ground, and everything is turning up top."
Six years ago, Jacobsen was honored with the Payne Stewart Award, joining a remarkable list of recipients that includes Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Byron Nelson, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw and Davis Love III. It meant a lot to Jacobsen, a friend of the late Hall-of-Famer who died in an 1999 airplane crash. Jacobsen and Stewart played together in a for-fun band, "Jake Trout and the Flounders," a take-off on Hootie and the Blowfish. Peter was Jake Trout.
"I didn't have the career accomplishments to get into the Hall of Fame — not even close," Jacobsen says. "I consider the Payne Stewart Award my hall of fame. It's voted on by your fellow players, and it recognizes your career in its entirety. The Hall of Fame is really the hall of accomplishments — you win a lot of tournaments."
Jacobsen won his share of tournaments, but he also earned the affection of his peers as well as fans for his ebullient personality.
"I always tended to be drawn toward players like Fuzzy Zoeller and Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer and Chi-Chi Rodriguez," Jacobsen says. "I liked what went on outside the ropes. Arnold always said — and Payne embodied this the most — it's good to reach outside the ropes and figuratively grab the fans and bring them inside the ropes. I've always tried to do that."
In the late '90s, Jacobsen and Stewart found themselves in a Los Angeles studio, recording one of two albums, playing guitar, singing and mixing songs alongside Stills, Nash and Frey.
Says Jacobsen: "We would look at each other and say, 'How did we get here?'"
Jacobsen says of the presidents he played golf with, George W. Bush was the most fun. Peter once played in a foursome with Bush (when he was governor of Texas), his brother Jeb (when he was governor of Florida) and their father, George H.W. Bush (when he was president).
"George W. Bush was a very good golfer and maybe the fastest player I've played with," Jacobsen says. "We played 18 holes in Naples in about 2 1/2 hours. Everybody had his own cart. The president would tee off first and then drive off before anybody else hit.
"President (Gerald) Ford wasn't a very good player but a nice man. I played with (President Donald) Trump before he was president. He played in all the celebrity events and was a good golfer."
Jacobsen began his broadcasting career at age 24 when ABC producer Don Ohlmeyer hired him as part of the broadcast team of the original "Skins Game," working with Scully and Bob Goalby.
"I learned a lot about broadcasting from the best of the business," Jacobsen says. "I enjoy it. I have a passion for the game, and I like people. You would call me a glass-half full guy. I always look for the positive. If a player make a mistake on the golf course, I look to see what recovery he can make.
"When I worked with Miller at NBC, he'd ask me, 'Why aren't you tougher on these players?' I would say, 'Johnny, that's why we have you.'"
Jacobsen calls himself a "huge Oregonian" and a "sports junkie." He owns season tickets for the Trail Blazers and Oregon football.
"I follow Oregon because I went there, but I pull for Oregon State, Portland State and the University of Portland," he says. "Everything Oregon, I pull for. I'm proud of my roots. I'll be at a bunch of Duck games this fall, including the Auburn game in Dallas."
While in Portland last week, Jacobsen presided over PJP's production of the Oregon Legends golf tournament at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. The event benefits UO athletics. His company has a contract with Lexus, the official automobile of the U.S. Open and the USGA, and runs a couple of other tournaments.
"We're constantly on the move," he says.
Jacobsen and his wife of 44 years, Jan, moved to Florida after their children left for college — Amy to Syracuse, Kristen to New York University and Mick to Florida Gulf Coast.
"We knew living in Oregon wasn't going to work," Peter says. "We'd be 3,000 miles away from our kids. The general rule is, kids usually live and have families close to where they go to college. We knew we had to move from Oregon. Jan picked the Naples area, and we were up and down the East Coast visiting our kids in college."
Amy now lives in Portland and has two boys. Kristen lives in New York and has a boy and a girl. Mick lives in Florida. Their parents now have homes in Portland, New York and Florida.
"We're all over the globe," Peter says. "We spend a good amount of the summer in New York and most of the fall in Oregon."
The four grandchildren have changed Peter's life forever.
"I told my kids, 'I loved you for a while, but I don't care about you anymore. I care about my four grandkids,'" he says with a smile. "Being a grandparent gives depth to your life. When I'm in New York or Portland, my day revolves around them."
Jacobsen has had to withdraw from two of the three Champions Tour events he has entered this year. He pulled a back muscle at the Senior PGA Championship in May.
"It's a lingering problem," he says. "At 65, you don't bounce back from these things."
Jacobsen also withdrew Sunday from this week's U.S. Senior Open at Notre Dame, Illinois.
"I'm better, but I'm not feeling great," he says. "I don't want to play unless I'm ready. The last thing you want to do is take a spot from somebody else.
"I've been playing OK. I play quite a bit in Florida, but whenever you get hurt, it limits your ability to let it go. You can't really commit to the shot, and then you're very restricted."
Jacobsen will work with NBC in three events over the next month — the American Century Celebrity Classic at Lake Tahoe, California, then the Senior British Open and the Open Championship in Europe. But he's not scheduled to play any more tournaments this year.
"I want to continue to play golf," he says. "But I don't know how much I'll play on the Champions Tour, because it's just hard. When I play golf, I do it for enjoyment. It's a lot more fun when you're feeling good and playing well."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.