Cover Story
Peter Jacobsen: Eagle, Birdie, Boogie
Photos by Tom Trieck

A golfer who rocks, he loves to hang with rockers who golf. Portland, Oregonís Peter Jacobsen has won seven PGA Tour events in his career, hosts his own show on The Golf Channel, and has the distinction of being the first golfer to have his mug grace the front of a full-size box of Wheaties. But Jacobsen might be best known as Jake Trout, lead singer of Jake Trout and the Flounders. The band, in its short-lived career, recorded two albums and featured the likes of Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Alice Cooper, Hootie and the Blowfish, and the Eaglesí Glenn Frey.

The PGA Tour pro used his inestimable charm to lure the aforementioned rock stars into the studio to help record such tunes as "I Love to Play," to the tune of Randy Newmanís "I Love L.A."; "Love the One You Whiff," a rave-up on Stephen Stillsí "Love the One Youíre With"; and "Get It to the Hole," based on Huey Lewis and the Newsí "Heart and Soul," among many others.

"Weíre in a time right now in the world of golf when everything is so serious," Jacobsen says. "Tiger is serious. Ernie Els is serious. Vijay Singh is serious. David Duval is serious. But I come from a time when everything was not serious. Fuzzy Zoeller, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino."

One visit with Jacobsen at his Peter Jacobsen Productions (PJP) headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and itís quickly apparent that thereís considerably more to the Oregon native than goofy takes on dimpled balls and a fascination with rock music. The 50-year-old now straddles the divide between playing the PGA Tour and enduring "rookie" jokes on the Champions Tour, formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour, which he joined after his March 2004 birthday.

Though he hasnít won a major, Jacobsen has been a strong contender on Tour since he turned pro 28 years ago. The year 1995 turned out to be a banner season, as Jake (as heís known around the Tour) had back-to-back victories, taking home the winnerís check at both the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Buick Invitational of California.

He still swings a mean club. Though recently set back by surgery to repair his left hip, Jacobsen is never far from competition. And the downtime will likely fuel the other parts of his thriving career. Says Sports Illustrated, "Surpassed only by golfís titans, Peter Jacobsen ranks among the most accomplished golf-businessmen in history."

He represents about 10 companies, and annually appears at up to 35 corporate events, earning nearly $3 million annually as a spokesperson. Companies such as Lexus, Infone, Jeld-Wen, Titleist, Summit Gaming, Incredible Technologies and Ketel One Vodka use Jacobsenís charm and talents to the fullest. His Peter Jacobsen Productions, a sports marketing and event-management company, has four satellite offices around the country and has produced more than 100 events nationwide.

"In golf, you are the only person that you can depend upon. I found that to be a great lesson in life, too."

After the initial success of PJPís inaugural event, Portlandís Fred Meyer Challenge, "We got cocky," Jacobsen says assuredly. A natural showman, Jacobsen became legendary for his ability to warm and enthuse a crowd.

Part of that legend stems from his impersonations. Jacobsen is well-known for tickling ribs with his uncanny renditions of fellow PGA Tour pros. His favorite victims include Tom Kite, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd and Johnny Miller. His Palmer is uncanny, but perhaps the most famous is his Craig Stadler bit, where he stuffs a couple of cases of golf balls under his shirt and huffs around as The Walrus. Itís all in good-natured fun. At least Stadler is still laughing about it.

In a town known for its one and only big-time pro sports team, the NBAís Portland Trail Blazers, Jacobsen has become not only one of the cityís most high-profile athlete-celebrities, but a committed member and longtime resident of this civic-minded community.

Jacobsen grew up in Portland and attended the cityís Lincoln High School before enrolling at the University of Oregon in nearby Eugene. He grew up in a household that lived for golf. His mom and dad, Barbara and Erling, and siblings David, Paul and Susan, all spent weekends traipsing around Portland-area links. His early memories are of caddying for his dad, taking a few shots with clubs out of his bag, and then getting seriously golf-bitten at 12 or 13. "We all played golf," the affable and still-fit-at-50 Jacob-sen says. "Dad taught us at an early age so we played a lot together. We had a golf-dominated upbringing."

In his baseball classic Ball Four, author Jim Bouton opined, "You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." In Jacobsenís case, it was a golf club.

What he loves about golf is its self-determining nature. Unlike team sports, he says, "Itís up to you. You are the only person out there that you can depend upon. I found that to be a great lesson in life, too. Iíve always felt that Iím the best determiner of my own fate."

Though he was a well-rounded athlete who played football, baseball and basketball throughout high school, Jacobsen played golf to obsession. Three years into the U of O, he was nearly broke and had one of those life-defining moments. "I was half a year short of my degree," he says. "I needed to make some money, so I turned professional. I went to the Tour school and got my PGA Tour card in the fall of 1976, then everythingís a blur," he says with a broad smile.

Jacobsen hoped to stay on the Tour for five or 10 years, he says, save some money, and come back to Portland to start a business. "It still is that way," he says. "Year to year, you donít really know. Golf is like gambling. You throw the dice on the table, each shot is like putting $100 on black or red. You donít know where itís going to end up. Iíve been very lucky and got a lot of great rolls of the dice."

Jacobsen travels on the road with a guitar, an instrument heís played since he was 12. Since golf is running through his brain all the time, it was natural for him to jot down lyrics and apply them to popular songs of the day. "Next thing I knew, had a notebook full of lyrics," he says. He unabashedly called up some of his musical heroes and invited them to join him in the studio. "Theyíre all golf nuts," he says.

"I wanted to show the golf fan that weíre not all walking around with our hats pulled down and sunglasses on, and nobody smiles."

He founded his rock band, Jake Trout and the Flounders, with fellow pro golfers Payne Stewart and Mark Lye. The band was a big hit at golf events around the country. So who takes the credit? Arnold Palmer, of course, who says almost certainly with tongue firmly in cheek: "I donít want to take all the credit for their talent. But first I had to teach them how to play golf. Then I had to teach them how to sing, and teach them how to play various instruments, none of which they do very well."

The fun ended when Stewart was tragically killed in October 1999. "The band is no longer intact," says Jacobsen, "because we lost Payne. We just have never felt like it was appropriate to do anything since Payne was tragically taken from us."

Some of the tunes now appear on The Golf Channel show Peter Jacobsen Plugged In. The show is a chance for him to shine in a role heís been playing most of his life: the ebullient, somewhat offbeat host and raconteur. "Itís fun," he says. "Theyíve given me a lot of room to experiment and create shows. Plugged In is a show I created to show a fun side of the game and a fun side of the golfers." Bursting with ideas much like those he held for rock lyrics, Jacobsen wrote the first 10 shows in no time. And fun is definitely the name of the game.

The game of golf, much like any sport, tends to take on the personality of the top performer of the time, he says. "Thatís the way it is with business, with the Presidential administration, with music. What I wanted to show the golf fan is that weíre not all walking around with our hats pulled down and sunglasses on, and nobody smiles."

Though itís a busy life, Jacobsenís is not necessarily glamorous. A typical Tour week includes Tuesday practice rounds, a Wednesday pro-am, and tournament rounds Thursday through Sunday. Jacobsen plans to tee off in as many tournamentsóboth PGA Tour and Champions Tour eventsóas he can. When not on the course, he attends to his PJP duties and nurturing his numerous endorsement contracts. "Life on Tour is great," he says, "but not as glamorous as everyone makes it out to be. There arenít a lot of parties. We get paid for how well we perform."

And Jake, with or without the Flounders, is nothing if not a quality show.




Don Campbell is a frequent contributor to World Traveler magazine.
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