Jacobsen Navigates Hazards On and Off the Course
September 11, 2016 | Elverson, Pa.
By Dave Shedloski
Patrolling the fairways of Stonewall’s North Course on a steamy Saturday in the first round of stroke play in the 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, Matthew Jacobsen encountered more than his share of difficulties and challenges.
It was nothing compared to what he faces as a police patrolman in the Central District of his hometown of Portland, Ore.
Perhaps that’s why Jacobsen was all smiles even after literally sweating through a 7-over-par 77 in his debut in a USGA championship. “It wasn’t my best and it wasn’t my worst, but I enjoyed the challenge today,” Jacobsen said, grinning and wiping his brow in the low-90-degree day. “I have a favorite line from my dad, who always said basically, ‘That was the best I could do today,’ whatever that score happened to be.”
Many might recognize the Jacobsen name. It’s been prominent in golf for decades.
Matthew’s father is David Jacobsen, a former USGA committee member and a fine longtime amateur golfer. He competed in the inaugural U.S. Mid-Amateur 35 years ago and advanced to match play before losing in the Round of 64. He improved in succeeding years, making the quarterfinals in 1983 and the semis a year later, losing to eventual champion Michael Podolak.
More well-known is his uncle, Peter, who this week is part of NBC/Golf Channel’s team at the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship near Indianapolis. In addition to seven PGA Tour victories, Peter Jacobsen captured the 2004 U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis – the same course where his father competed in that first Mid-Am.
Both men passed along a few pearls of wisdom as Matthew, 31, prepared for the championship. His father walked along with him for two practice rounds. “It was basic advice, but really sound,” said Jacobsen, who played collegiate golf for three years at the University of Oregon under Casey Martin. “It was all about one shot at a time and understanding that pars are not a bad score. Just having that perspective of not trying to be perfect with every shot … that helped.”
As for his uncle, whom he spoke with by phone Friday night, a more overarching message was delivered. “Typical of him, he just told me don’t forget to have fun.”
Golf has always been a source of enjoyment for the younger Jacobsen. In addition to playing since he was 5 years old, he has caddied for both his father and his uncle in tournaments.The most special assignment was carrying his father’s clubs in the 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
His dad couldn’t stay at Stonewall to watch him compete this weekend, but Matthew understood. He was on his way to St. Andrews, Scotland, for the fall meeting of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, where he was accepting an invitation to join the venerable organization.
“Being around tournament golf and the game, you know what to expect,” Matthew said. “That helped in my preparation. I knew what to look for and how to handle some tough situations.”
Tough is a relative term for a big-city cop. Jacobsen has been in law enforcement for nearly seven years. He started in Forest Grove, Ore., where he worked for five years in the gang enforcement division. Now his beat includes a portion of Portland known as Old Town.
Making hasty decisions on the streets or the golf course is ill-advised, though the penalty is potentially fatal in the former. But Jacobsen understands this and embraces how his job and his avocation are intertwined.
“They are at two ends of the spectrum, but I like to think that doing one makes me better at the other,” he said. “We deal with some pretty high-stress situations, and just like you do in golf when you encounter a tough situation, it’s always best to take a step back, assess what’s going on, slow everything down and react in a methodical and appropriate manner. I think that translates to golf. Sometimes you get frustrated, but [you have to] take it all in and make a good decision that rights the ship.
“Some of the things we’re exposed to and some unfortunate things we deal with definitely puts things in perspective when we’re playing golf,” Jacobsen added. “We have it pretty darn good when we get to play this game.”
And Jacobsen admits that golf has a calming effect. It’s a hard game. But it’s not as hard as his career.
“Doing what I do, anytime I step on the golf course is a bit of a reprieve from the job,” he said wistfully. “The competition part is the most fun – to be focused just on golf and the challenge and testing yourself to try to get better, and I don’t have to think about work. Anytime I get to tee it up is special for me.”
Which explains the smile.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.