One of Jacobsen's favorite ways of spending an evening is going to comedy clubs. It may be that his understanding of professional entertainers is what makes his own physical and verbal impressions of 40 or 50 professional golfers so good. Jacobsen has an eye for revealing detail and an ear for the rhythm of a joke. "I've been on a bananas and nuts diet," he will say, easily taking on Gary Player's clipped intensity. "And I'll tell you, I've been constipated for two weeks."
Unfortunately, golf fans liked Jacobsen's act with straight man and touring pro D.A. Weibring so much that soon after it started in 1979 the two players were doing 30 dates a year, at pro-ams and banquets. By 1982, Jacobsen says, "I was getting burned out and feeling a little taken advantage of." These days the pair keeps appearances to below 10 a year. Jacobsen reserves most of his impressions for his fellow pros.
"People think Peter must spend hours practicing in front of the mirror, but I swear, the stuff just comes to him," says Weibring. "The other day we were filming something and he just became Don January—the shark smile, the floating walk, the whole thing. It was eerie. And the bigger the audience, the more spontaneous and better he gets."
Jacobsen also seems to pick the right occasion to play his best golf. He went straight from the tour qualifying school in 1976 to his first pro title, the Northern California Open. When his sponsorship contract expired in 1979, he got the necessary cash by winning the Western Australian Open. His first tour win came when he was wondering if traveling with a newborn infant was the best thing for his golf game. After winning, Jacobsen celebrated at the awards ceremony by walking before the throng on the 18th green carrying five-week-old Amy over his head. Amy showed the sure Jacobsen instinct for a laugh by throwing up on him. She's been toddling along ever since, as have her siblings as they appeared.
His most gratifying win was last year's Colonial. The week before the tournament, Jacobsen's father, Erling, learned he had throat cancer. Jacobsen wanted to withdraw, but his father asked him to play. "It sounds a little soapy, but I said, 'O.K., I'll play, but I'm going to win the tournament for you,' " Jacobsen recalls. He made the same prediction to the press after the third round, which found him two shots out of the lead.
When Jacobsen made a five-foot putt on the first playoff hole, Erling, who was in a hospital bed recovering from surgery that removed half his tongue, was overcome. "I guess I cried a little," he says. "It took a lot of guts for Peter to say what he said, then go out and do it. It inspired me." He had to relearn how to eat and talk, but a year after the surgery his cancer is in remission and Erling is working a 40-hour week as a Portland insurance broker.
His son has never wanted to live anywhere else, and recently moved his family into a custom-built five-bedroom home in Lake Oswego, a leafy suburb of Portland. Jacobsen and his older brother, David, who twice tried the tour and last year reached the semifinals of the Mid-Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club, own a Portland turf-equipment and golf-cart distributorship. "I like living someplace nobody expects you to be from," says Jacobsen. "My only complaint about Oregon is that people tend to think small."
Jacobsen, however, is a big man when he comes back home, even if he does fail miserably at being selfish with his time. For instance, take the week before he was to defend his title at the Colonial. Instead of simply recharging his batteries with rest and contemplation, he scheduled three exhibitions and a speaking engagement in four days. By Saturday, when he played—for free—in a local charity pro-am, he was exhausted. But when a woman named Sadie introduced herself to Jacobsen as someone who had worked in the same building with his father for 20 years, Peter indulged her as if she were family.
"I don't mean to sound like a crusader," Jacobsen explains. "It's just that so many people in sports say no to people like that. I'd just rather be someone who says yes."
Given a philosophy like that, maybe folks should be imitating him.