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His Career Is Taking Off
Jaime Diaz
May 27, 1985
Peter Jacobsen's talent as a mimic has overshadowed his golf, but now his success is reaching new heights
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May 27, 1985

His Career Is Taking Off

Peter Jacobsen's talent as a mimic has overshadowed his golf, but now his success is reaching new heights

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A few months earlier, Jacobsen had received a letter from Chuck Hogan, a 38-year-old golf pro who believes there's more to golf than the search for the perfect swing. Hogan invited Jacobsen to try imagery training at Sports Enhancement Associates, in Eugene, of which he's a co-founder. For Jacobsen, who had always tinkered with his swing when his game went sour, it was time to learn something about the inner game.

Hogan's idea that mental images control bodily reactions is hardly new. A more famous Hogan once said, "I don't mind missing a shot. I just hate to miss one before I hit it." But Chuck Hogan and his partner, Dale Van Dalsem, have some new methods. In five days with Hogan, Jacobsen learned to visualize and sustain confidence-building images.

"Most of them were memories of me playing with my brother David and my dad at Waverley," says Jacobsen. "It made me remember how much I loved just playing the game of golf. I had gotten so used to trying too hard to win and living up to other people's expectations that I had forgotten golf was fun."

As you might expect from someone who can produce the world's only known replica of Lanny Wadkins's lightning-fast golf swing, Jacobsen exhibited an extraordinary ability to see detailed images and believe in them. To overcome a longtime insecurity about his short game, he conjured up a mental scene in which Ben Wright, the acerbic television commentator who once criticized his putting, was hoisted out of a TV tower by a helicopter and carried off into outer space. On the golf course, Jacobsen went beyond simply visualizing himself executing perfect shots. He started to feel himself change sizes, depending on the force needed for a shot. Greens would "talk" to him about which club to hit. Once on the putting surface, he would call in a giant to tramp a trough between his ball and the hole. "There's some other bizarre stuff that's too weird to put into words," he says.

In his first competitive round after the work with Hogan, Jacobsen shot 64 to lead the Colonial National Invitation; he ultimately won in a playoff with Payne Stewart. Two months of solid play later, he took the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open. Although hampered this year by a back injury and an ingrown cuticle on his left thumb that have caused him to miss four events, Jacobsen has finished second twice and won $106,542 in 10 starts.

Positive by nature even before his training with Hogan, Jacobsen is now seeing possibilities everywhere. For one thing, he isn't kidding when he says he wants to play the lead in the movie version of his favorite book, Michael Murphy's Golf in the Kingdom, a minor classic having to do with the metaphysical side of the sport. Jacobsen sees himself as the narrator, whose perception of life changes forever after he plays golf on a mythical Scottish course called Burningbush, with a Zen-inspired golf master named Shivas Irons. "I'm so into this book," says Jacobsen. He lapses into a perfect Scottish brogue while reading from a copy: "And I say to ye all, good friends, that as ye grow in gowf, ye come to see the things ye learn there in every other place." Jacobsen looks up smiling. "Now c'mon," he says. "Am I meant to be in this movie or what?"

Jacobsen said as much in a letter to filmmaker Ronald Colby, who has worked with Francis Ford Coppola. Though Colby is more concerned with the difficult task of getting someone to give him $3 million to make a movie about golf and the supernatural, Jacobsen's letter intrigued him. "Peter certainly seems to have a feeling for the spirit of the book," says Colby. "He might be a natural."

That's the way Lemmon sees Jacobsen. "The guy is really flawless," says the two-time Academy Award winner. "With the right direction, I'm certain Peter could do a very professional job. He has the gifts of timing and observation, and a great sense of what's funny."

Bill Murray is another of Jacobsen's show business fans. The two met when Jacobsen introduced himself to Murray and writer Hunter S. Thompson at the weigh-in for the first Leonard-Duran fight, in Montreal in 1980. When the tour came to the New York area last June for the Westchester Classic and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Murray and his brother, Ed, were in Jacobsen's gallery.

After Jacobsen shot a final-round 67 at the Open to tie for seventh, he and the Murrays retired to a hospitality tent. There Bill and Peter used a practice net to hit shots and show off for each other. Murray did a variation of Carl, his twisted-lipped character from Caddyshack, whom Jacobsen himself often falls into when he wants to convey something goofy in everyday conversation. Jacobsen recounts the scene with delight. "Murray was so great, he was like...." Here he mimics Carl and goes on: " '...Cinderella story...former actor...now a top pro...about to become...the U.S. Open champion...245 yards out...got a nine-iron....' People outside the tent were laughing, falling over themselves trying to get a look. It was definitely a great moment in sports."

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