Grass looks greener on the far side of 50
For pro golfer, event promoter and entertainer Peter Jacobsen, staying busy's a matter of course
Life is moving fast for Peter Jacobsen as he nears his 50th birthday, but not too fast. Never too fast.
'I am busy, but I like being busy,' the Lake Oswego-based pro golfer says. 'I don't know if I could ever play well without being busy. I have won my best tournaments when I was busy.
'My first tournament win, the Buick Open in 1980, came just after my oldest daughter, Amy, was born. My wife, Jan, brought Amy with us to the tournament, she cried for a week, I never slept and I won the tournament. So Jan said, 'Don't you ever say the kids are driving you nuts.' I live in a world of chaos and distraction, and it doesn't bother me a bit.'
A recent week of activity for Jacobsen: Missed the cut in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis. Played in a one-day charity outing for a children's hospital in Chicago. Flew to Portland for four days, during which time he caught up on happenings with Peter Jacobsen Productions, made a zillion phone calls on a half-zillion subjects and reintroduced himself to his wife. Flew to Toronto to help with PJP's one-day charity pro-am event there, which Jacobsen says is the biggest fund-raiser in Canada.
Things are changing in Jacobsen's life, though not necessarily in a slow-me-down kind of way.
The last of his three children, Mickey, has graduated from Lakeridge High and is moving on. Mickey, 18, will walk on to the basketball team at Division II Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall. Amy, who turns 23 July 19, is a graduate of Syracuse University in New York and now is working in Peter Jacobsen Productions' marketing-communications department. Kristen, 21, is a senior in pre-med at New York University eyeing a career in neurological research.
The empty nest will coincide with Jacobsen's debut on the Champions Tour after he turns 50 next April. He plans to play a full Champions schedule, and he intends to have his wife of 27 years with him as much as possible. They will split the time Jacobsen is away from the tour at their homes in Lake Oswego and Florida.
'It is definitely going to be a change without having any kids under the roof, and one of the things we are excited about is traveling together,' he says. 'Jan traveled with me a lot when the kids were young, but she has probably only gone to three or four tournaments a year since the kids started high school.
'We both love to see different places, and the Champions Tour has stops in different cities than the PGA Tour, so we'll be going to places such as San Antonio, Birmingham and Nashville.
'And instead of just day-care center/
hotel/golf course, we will be able to go to nice restaurants and museums and concerts just like big people do.'
Jacobsen, who ranks 114th on the PGA money list with $302,970 in earnings this year, is an old-timer on the regular team. He will be a kid again when he joins the Champions Tour (50 and over), which holds a certain appeal for the former Lincoln High and University of Oregon standout.
'It's going to be fun to be young and a player people look for,' Jacobsen says. 'When I was in my prime on the tour, people would say, 'Watch out for Tom Kite and Tom Watson and Greg Norman and Peter Jacobsen.' It would be great to be mentioned like that again.
'But you still have to play well, I don't care who you are.'
Jacobsen expects to play well. He expects to be in good shape, too. His 6-2 frame carries 225 pounds these days, about 25 more than he'd like.
'Everything is breaking down,' he says, half-joking. 'My eyesight is going, I had hip surgery, I have bursitis in the elbows.
'But I want to keep my game fit, and to do that I need to be in good shape. I have been so busy the last four or five years, I have neglected that part of my life, but I am going to carve out more time to work out and get back down in the 200 range.'
Mentally, Jacobsen is a little kid again, albeit a 49-year-old kid, looking forward to a new toy.
'I am real excited about the Champions Tour,' he says. 'I have been in contention two or three times a year on the PGA Tour, but I really haven't had a chance to win.
'The reason I have played the last few years is to keep my game in shape (for the Champions Tour). I am motivated by all my friends who have played well up there, whether it is Watson, Bruce Lietzke, Bob Gilder, any of those guys. It's like, I can't wait.'
Jacobsen will continue to play a few PGA events annually, especially those he counts among his six tour victories.
'Ones like the Colonial, Bob Hope, AT&T, those are special to me,' he says. 'My focus will be on the Champions Tour now, but I just love to play golf, period. I love to compete. I love studying the golf swing, studying the game.
'Golf has been my life for 27 years on the tour, and 10 years before that. The smell of the grass in the morning, the dew in the ground and the sound of the golf ball Ñ it sounds like a movie, but to me, it is where I belong. I can't imagine not doing it.'
Peter Jacobsen Productions is staging the Jen-Weld Tradition tournament Aug. 28-31 at the Reserve, which will ease the pain of the loss of Jacobsen's beloved Fred Meyer Challenge.
In the case of Fred Meyer's corporate buyout by the Kroger Co. Ñ with its headquarters in Cincinnati Ñ the decision was made by company officials to place advertising emphasis elsewhere. In a moment of candor, Jacobsen sounds off on the subject.
'That is the most puzzling marketing decision I have ever heard,' he says.
'Here is a company that for 17 years has been committed to its community with a golf event. Through Fred Meyer, we had a chance to bring in all their vendors into the market and forced them to associate with our city and raised a lot of money for charity. For them to drop that cold turkey blew my mind.
'I will never criticize Fred Meyer for anything they have ever done; I do question the decision to drop the tournament from a marketing standpoint.'
The Jen-Weld event is a major on the Champions circuit, 'and it is huge,' Jacobsen says. Could it be better than the Challenge?
'Different,' he says. 'I'm not sure anything can be better than the Challenge. We did whatever we wanted. We conducted a clinic off the 18th green. The players and sponsors loved that. We made the players walk through the corporate suites after their round, to do some meet-and-greet. I mean, that's cool. It was the most unique golf event that has ever been staged because you could get so up close and personal with the greats.'
Plenty to do
Jacobsen remains consumed by these and his other endeavors. He founded Peter Jacobsen Productions in 1989, starting as an event management company that has branched into marketing, communications and event financing. The firm has 44 full-time employees.
His Jacobsen Hardy Golf Course Design does about three new courses a year, 'and I love it,' Jacobsen says. 'The second-most enjoyable thing next to hitting a golf shot is to envision how a shot must be played. When you get a brand-new piece of property and can create something, that is amazing.'
Then there is Jacobsen's weekly show on the Golf Channel, 'Plugged In,' now in its second season. It's a comedy-golf-interview show, and Jacobsen is a natural as co-host with Matt Griesser, the 'Sign Boy' of Titleist commercials.
'So much fun,' Jacobsen says. 'I originally took the idea to the PGA Tour, but they didn't want to have anything to do with it. So we went to the Golf Channel, and they loved the idea.'
In a segment called 'Peter and Friends,' Jacobsen interviews golf subjects in a casual setting.
'I asked Nancy Lopez what she thought about Annika (Sorenstam) playing in a men's tournament, and she said she thought it was wrong,' he says. 'I asked Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie, who work with Johnny Miller broadcasting events, if Johnny is too tough on people. They both said yeah, we think he is. I'm not sure they would have said those things in a normal interview setting.'
In an upcoming show, tour pros Brad Faxon, Billy Andrade, Dudley Hart and Tim Herron and their caddies are featured in a 'Newlywed Game' kind of format. The caddy is asked a question about the player, puts the answer on a card, and the player sees if he can match the answer.
'It turned out to be funny,' Jacobsen says. 'My persona is one of fun and unpredictability, and that is what the show is all about. There is enough predictable stuff on the Golf Channel.'
Maybe some day, life will slow down for Peter Jacobsen.
But not now.
And probably not anytime soon.