Troops make a big impression on Jacobsen
Imagine the experiences Peter Jacobsen has packed into his 49 years on Earth:
• Played with the world's greatest golfers
• Won some of the PGA's most prestigious tournaments
• Rubbed shoulders with celebrities in all walks of life
So when Jacobsen calls his visit last weekend with U.S. troops on Cuba's Guantanamo Bay 'the most rewarding experience of my life,' that means something.
Jacobsen organized the trip because he wanted to pay homage to soldiers in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard who are guarding about 800 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners.
'People are forgetting about the soldiers at Guantanamo Bay, whose job isn't glamorous but very difficult,' says the Portland golfer, who was in Charlotte, N.C., this week to play the Wachovia Championship. 'I was overwhelmed by the level of commitment and pride in our troops there.'
Jacobsen made it an unforgettable weekend for the troops, too. With the help of sponsors Nike, Titleist, Ping, Callaway, Dunlop and Taylor Made, he brought several sets of clubs, bags and golf balls for soldiers to use on the base's nine-hole golf course, which Jacobsen jokingly calls 'the TPC Course at Guantanamo Bay.' He also staged a clinic and played a round of golf for the thousands who wanted to watch. He and comedian-actor Matt Griesser taped enough material for three episodes of their weekly show on the Golf Channel, 'Peter Jacobsen Plugged In.'
The former Lincoln High and University of Oregon standout talked Hootie and the Blowfish into accompanying him and performing a three-hour concert ('Yeah, I got up there and sang and played guitar and made an idiot of myself,' Jacobsen says). At lead singer Darius Rucker's urging, guitar maker Gibson donated 12 guitars to the base. Oh, yes Ñ Jake is also friends with pitcher Randy Johnson, who got sporting-goods manufacturer Rawlings to donate boxes of softballs, bats and gloves.
Jacobsen says he intends to make the Cuba trip an annual event and already has commitments from fellow PGA pros Curtis Strange, Jay Haas, Mark O'Meara and Billy Andrade.
'I have never been more proud to be an American,' Jacobsen says. 'It made me realize how fortunate I was to go through high school and college and never have been in the service or fight in a war. One of the cool things is, a lot of the military people there talked about how they are defending the rights of the antiwar protesters. They say it hurts when (the protesters) wouldn't support them, because they are just doing their job. They don't want to go to war, either.'
• Jacobsen has season tickets to the Trail Blazers but didn't go often to games this year and has found it increasingly difficult to support the hometown NBA team. He says Rasheed Wallace's refusal of interview requests 'is an embarrassment to all professional athletes.'
'I can't tell you the times I have had to go to the press room and speak to reporters after a very difficult round or situation,' Jacobsen says. 'For Rasheed to be so condescending is disrespectful to all athletes who do their very best to bring a message to the media. The only way to get to the fans is through the media. It is your responsibility to answer their questions.
'I feel like the Portland press has bent over backward to be fair to Rasheed. He is not a pro Ñ he is a punk. The quicker Portland gets rid of Rasheed Wallace, the better. Young players in any sport are impressionable. He is providing his teammates with the wrong kind of role model. I'll say this: I wouldn't even have Rasheed Wallace on my fantasy team.'
• Dennis Erickson feels for Mike Price, ousted as football coach at Alabama last week after the well-publicized incident involving a few extracurricular indiscretions. Erickson and Price grew up together in the Seattle area.
'Mike has been a good friend since I was about 13,' says Erickson, the ex-Oregon State and current San Francisco 49ers coach. 'He is one of the great college coaches and great people I have been around. I don't know the details of what happened, but I know Mike Price, and that's not him.
'All the positive things he has done for players and coaches he has worked with the last 30 years É I feel so bad for him. It has become such a huge national story, I can't stand to read about it anymore. But he will rebound, I know he will.'
Erickson says the shooting incident involving one of his former players, Dennis Weathersby, caused the ex-OSU cornerback's stock to drop 'about two rounds' in last month's NFL draft. Weathersby went on the first pick in the fourth round to Cincinnati.
'We had needs at other positions, and we took a defensive end (Miami's Walter Andrews) in the third round,' Erickson says. 'If cornerback had been our need, I would have taken him in the second round. Dennis has come a long way since I started coaching him at Oregon State. His best days in football are ahead of him.'
• In Anaheim's second-round National Hockey League playoff victory over Dallas on Monday night, two goals went to replay, and one Ñ by the Stars' Brenden Morrow, a former Winter Hawk Ñ was counted. The replay judge was Lake Oswego's Jim Christison, son-in-law of local broadcasting legend Bill Schonely. Christison, one of the NHL's supervisors of officials, worked the entire series.
• Tony Graziani and the Los Angeles Avengers (10-4) can clinch a first-round bye in the Arena Football League playoffs with a victory over Colorado on Saturday. With two regular-season games remaining, the former Oregon QB leads the league in passing touchdowns with 89 and ranks second in total offense and passing yardage. Ex-Portland State receiver James Hundon, who plays for San Jose, leads the league in yards per catch with 63 for 1,043 yards, a 16.6 average.