West Caldwell, N.J. – No Goliaths fell in the first round of the 2012 USGA Senior Amateur. Instead, a pair of Davids – Jacobsen and Talcott – faced off at Mountain Ridge Country Club.
Despite not making a birdie, Jacobsen utilized steady ball-striking – he hit nearly every green – to pressure Talcott into taking chances on and around the difficult Donald Ross-designed putting surfaces during his 6-and-5 victory.
I couldn’t make the shots around the greens that I needed, said Talcott, of Edgewood, Wash. In match play, you’re trying to go after it more than in stroke play. When you do that, you can make some mistakes.
Although Jacobsen and Talcott are both from the Pacific Northwest – Jacobsen lives in Portland, Ore. – their first round together took place nearly 2,500 miles from their home turf. The players spent the first four holes, all halved with pars, discussing courses and playing companions they have in common.
It’s unusual to come across the country to play against somebody from the same region, said Jacobsen.
As the match progressed, the conversation abated as the players focused more on figuring out the slopes on the greens.
The greens seemed a little quicker today, said Jacobsen. You have to think about every putt, every angle and how the ball is going to roll. It keeps you on your toes and you’re constantly thinking. It’s really fun.
The match ended on the 13th hole, a long par 4 where both players hit into a greenside bunker. In a shot that was emblematic of the day’s short-game frustrations, Talcott tried to hit a precise bunker shot that came up just short, and the ball rolled back into the bunker.
After blasting out and missing his putt, Talcott conceded the hole and the match. Despite the disappointment of the loss, Talcott and his wife, Trish, plan to sightsee around New York City, where her niece lives. A civil engineer, David is looking forward to seeing the city’s architecture.
Jacobsen is looking forward to trying to match the national championship won by the family Goliath: his brother, Peter, winner of the 2004 U.S. Senior Open and eight other events on the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
It’s hard to put into words what playing in a USGA championship means to me, said David, 59, who is older than Peter by one year and three days. I am so proud of him for that accomplishment, because I know how challenging and how difficult these events are.
When he won, I was pacing around on every single shot while watching on TV. I left him a voicemail maybe a hole ahead, because I wanted to be the first to congratulate him.
Peter worked as an announcer for the Ryder Cup telecast over the weekend, but he kept in touch with his older brother through texts as David competed in stroke-play qualifying.
Although David and Peter compete on different circuits now, they were on the same development track until college, when it was apparent to David that their paths would diverge.
During my freshman year at the University of Oregon, I was getting my brains beaten in, recalled David. Peter arrived the next year, and he won the second college tournament he played.
There was clearly a difference. He had a little better skill set. He could throw the ball father, run a little faster. I tried to compete, but he was a little better. It’s just the way things are.
The brothers turned professional at the same time, in 1976. Peter qualified for the PGA Tour in his first attempt, while David gave up after three unsuccessful trips to Qualifying School and regained his amateur status.
The appeal of USGA championships is that whether it’s an Open or Amateur trophy, the winner is holding a symbol of achievement wrought by talent, practice, perseverance and dedication. And when told that he had a chance to match his brother’s feat, David’s face brightened like a kid about to open a birthday present.
Wouldn’t that be cool? he said. Oh man, that would be very special.
Upon arriving at Mountain Ridge last week, Jacobsen was talking to a club officer, who introduced him to a member who was walking by.
I know you, said Jay Blumenfeld, a 20-time Mountain Ridge club champion and a contestant in this week’s Senior Amateur. You beat me in the 1975 U.S. Amateur.
Blumenfeld and Jacobsen may meet again Tuesday afternoon if both win in the second round, in which Jacobsen plays against Donald Detweiler. After defeating Doug Potter 5 and 4, Blumenfeld faces defending champion Louis Lee, who beat Martin West 3 and 2.
That’ll be a tough hill to climb, said Blumenfeld of his match against Lee. But I’m feeling pretty good.
Blumenfeld had a gallery of dozens of members following his first-round match, and the support has helped buoy his game.
It feels awesome, said Blumenfeld. I’m happy for them, too, that we can show off the club. We’re proud to host the championship, and I’ve gotten great compliments from the other players.
Battle of the Texans
Texas is so big that it can take an entire day to drive across the state. So of the 15 players from the Lone Star State to make the field, it is remarkable that John Grace and Gary Hardin, who live 10 minutes from each other in Fort Worth and are members of the same club, met in the first round of match play.
We came all this way just to play each other, joked Hardin, who won 3 and 2. We play together at [Mira Vista Country Club]. We have a game at 12 p.m. every day, and when we’re both in Fort Worth, we play.
In addition to competing against each other back home, Grace and Hardin, both 64, have been on the same side. They teamed up to win the 2007 Texas Senior Four-Ball Championship.
The only golfer to win the Texas Amateur, Texas Mid-Amateur and Texas Senior Amateur, Grace is also an accomplished player on the national stage. In addition to reaching the final of the 1974 U.S. Amateur and 2009 USGA Senior Amateur, Grace played in the 1975 Walker Cup Match.
But Grace’s run in his 43rd USGA championship ended at the hands of Hardin, who matched his wife, Mina, who advanced to the second round of the 2012 USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. However, Mina owns a USGA championship, having won the 2010 Senior Women’s Amateur.
John’s a gentleman, said Hardin. His wife said to me, ‘Don’t worry; he’s a big boy.’ I just made some putts today that he didn’t, and that was it.
A Busy Year
Randal Lewis is playing his fourth USGA championship in 2012.
Along with Doug Hanzel, Lewis has played in the U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and the USGA Senior Amateur.
It’s been an interesting year, said Lewis, 55, of Alma, Mich. It’s been fun but it’s a lot of golf. I’ve been struggling with my game so I’ve been working on it and some of the changes are starting to come around. This is the first time all year that I’ve felt like I’m playing good enough to at least have a chance to advance into match play and then who knows.
After defeating Dennis Vaughn, Lewis will face Hunter Nelson in the second round.
First-Round Odds And Ends
Hanzel’s long competitive season continued with a 21-hole victory over Brady Exber … The Hanzel-Exber duel was one of five first-round matches that went to extra holes. In the longest match, Hunter Nelson defeated Rick Woulfe in 22 holes. Two years ago at Lake Nona in the Senior Amateur, Woulfe survived a 25-hole first-round match, which tied for the second-longest in the championship's history … Gary Vanier turned 62 on Monday, but he couldn’t celebrate with a victory. He lost to Owen Joyner, 3 and 2 … No. 1 seed Jim Holtgrieve’s next opponent is Gerardo Ramirez, who is playing in his first USGA Senior Amateur.