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Jacobsen May Be Perfect Fit

PGA Tour veteran will make his debut on the Champions Tour today with a personality that is ideal for the fan-friendly atmosphere.

March 12, 2004|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

The activity inside Peter Jacobsen's mind is often chaotic, occasionally illogical and sometimes warped, but it is almost always about fun.

Outside of his family, fun is all that really matters to Jacobsen. Fun is synonymous with life and with golf as far as he is concerned, and everything else is secondary.

His impersonations of Arnold Palmer and Craig Stadler are legendary in golf circles, his outgoing personality and interaction with galleries are second to none among pro golfers and his barbs and taunts aimed at playing partners create as many laughs as Jim Carrey in a tickle booth.

So it's no wonder that his arrival on the Champions Tour in the SBC Classic beginning today at Valencia Country Club has created as much buzz as any other debut in the last decade.

Jacobsen fits in perfectly with a tour trying to mold an image of fan friendliness and accessibility. For Jacobsen, that's just another day at the office.

"I do that anyway," Jacobsen said. "To me, it's just another chance to play a tournament and have some fun. When you play a Champions Tour event, there's a chance to be involved with the fans. You've got the fan-friendly initiatives which the Champions Tour has instituted, which I think are fabulous. So I'm really looking forward to it."

There is a serious side to Jacobsen. He is a partner in a golf course design business and runs a golf production company. He also is the host of a television show on the Golf Channel and plays guitar in his spare time, but it's his inside-the-ropes antics that have earned him the reputation as clown prince of golf.

His theory is simple: He spends more time on the golf course in between shots than he does playing shots so he chooses to enjoy that time.

"It relieves the stress," Jacobsen said. "You see guys try to concentrate for four and a half or five straight hours and that's hard to do. Some guys can, I can't."

His method has helped him in a fairly successful 28-year career on the PGA Tour. Jacobsen has won seven times and finished among the top 30 on the PGA Tour money list eight times. Last year he won the Greater Hartford Open for his first victory in eight years, showing that he still has the game to compete with the best.

He turned 50 on March 4 and is fully exempt for the Champions Tour but said he will split time between the tours because his Hartford victory gives him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

"I fought for 28 years to keep my status, so I'm not just going to stop and give that up because I turned 50," Jacobsen said. "I'm just going to jump back and forth whenever possible. I know it's probably not a wise thing to do from a money list standpoint ... but this year, that's not my focus. My focus this year is to enjoy both tours."

Friends and fellow competitors aren't buying that. Stadler, who also won on the PGA Tour last year, said he has enjoyed his first year on the Champions Tour more than he enjoyed any part of the last six years on the regular tour.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't play [the PGA Tour] much next year because I think he's going to enjoy it out here," Stadler said. "He's right where he wants to be. He loves to talk. He loves to hear himself talk too. He's perfect for this tour."

Fuzzy Zoeller, in his third year on the Champions Tour, said a few missed cuts and a 50th-place finish on the PGA Tour were all he needed to realize how much more enjoyable it was playing on the Champions Tour.

"On the PGA Tour, you can't beat those young kids," Zoeller said. "It's no fun to go play the PGA Tour and miss every cut or make one cut out of seven. This tour is more laid back, more relaxed. It's a fun tour to be on. If [Jacobsen] goes out there and misses a few cuts, watch how quickly he comes back over here."

Jokes aside, the one thing that may keep Jacobsen on the Champions Tour full time is his soft side. He said walking on to the grounds at Valencia for his Champions Tour debut created a flood of memories. The first person he saw was Graham Marsh.

"He was in my tour school 28 years ago," Jacobsen said. "I said 'I recognize that guy.'

"It's hard for me to put into words. I just felt an overwhelming sense of satisfaction that I'm still playing the game I love. As time has rolled on, I became the old guy on the regular tour. The day is finally here where I can play this tour again and enjoy my friendships again."

*

SBC Classic

* When: Today-Sunday.

* Where: Valencia Country Club (6,575 yards, par 72).

* Purse: $1.5 million. Winner's share: $225,000.

* TV: The Golf Channel (Today-Sunday, 3-5:30 p.m.).

* Top players: Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Fuzzy Zoeller, Raymond Floyd, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw and Craig Stadler. Peter Jacobsen, who turned 50 on March 4, will make his Champions Tour debut.

* Tickets: $15 a day, available at the gate.

* Parking: Friday at Six Flags Magic Mountain; Saturday and Sunday at College of the Canyons; $5 per day or $10 for tournament pass.

* 2003 winner: Tom Purtzer.

* Next week: Toshiba Senior Classic in Newport Beach.

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