David Jacobsen: Still Giving Back
Portland Businessman Continues to Expand his Fundraising for Oregon Junior Golf
by Ron Bellamy
At a time in his life when he might reflect on all he’s done in golf, and take justifiable pride in all he’s done for golf, David Jacobsen wants to do even more.
The Portland businessman, 65 on March 1, played collegiately at the University of Oregon, has been one of the top amateur players in Oregon for decades. He played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur several times and in the U.S. Senior Open as recently as 2012, has been a committee member of the U.S. Golf Association and, by invitation, is a member of the prestigious Royal & Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews.
But his greatest impact on the sport he loves has been through his work with the Oregon Golf Association to promote its program for junior golfers ages 7 through 18, Oregon Junior Golf.
This year, the older brother (by a year) of professional golfer Peter Jacobsen has set some lofty goals for himself.
“This is a year that I’ve committed that instead of the haphazard fund-raising that I’ve done, and I’ve contributed, I plan on formally working on a fund-raising campaign,” Jacobsen said.
To generate donations, and create awareness, Jacobsen organized two new fund-raising events for the Jacobsen Youth Initiative, which falls under the umbrella of Oregon Junior Golf:
A one-club tournament at Eastmoreland Golf Course on April 24, featuring Peter Jacobsen, in which participants played 18 holes with just one club, and a screening of the movie “Tommy’s Honor,” about Old Tom Morris and his son, at McMenamin's Mission Theater in Portland.
In addition to staging those events, Jacobsen said he’s “going to step up my own personal appeals to individuals, and work on contacting foundations that have a mandate for getting kids active. To be perfectly honest, I feel a huge amount of responsibility to focus on fund-raising because we’ve had such great success, and I will do that this year.
“I’m not a professional fund-raiser; I’m passionate about young people in golf. If I could get to $100,000 (in new donations), I’d be thrilled. I’d love to get to $250,000 and create an endowment for future years.”
Jacobsen’s inspiration goes back to childhood, growing up in a family of golfers. His father, Erling Jacobsen, taught the game to his wife and children, cherished the lessons and values of the sport, and loved to help young people play the game.
“Dad always believed that the game was a lot more than competition,” Jacobsen said. “It was a lifestyle. It taught you honesty, character, integrity. The game meant a lot of different things to him than just winning a tournament. ...
“My dad was always passionate about young players. He was passionate about golfers in general, but when he would see a young person on the driving range, he would automatically go help them, with their grip, their stance, their posture. He would take them out to play golf. If dad was out there after work he would take you out to play.”
Erling Jacobsen passed away in 1992, and four years later funds contributed in his memory were used to establish the Erling Jacobsen Tour, a series of 16 non-competitive nine-hole golf events intended to introduce the game to young people. “We pair kids based on skill level, gender, age,” Jacobsen said. “We start off with a lesson in etiquette. We talk about courtesy, respect, and all the things Dad felt were very important. They play nine holes, there’s no competition, then there’s lunch.”
In 2012, discussions between Jacobsen and the OGA led to the creation of another new program aimed at young golfers — Youth on Course. Inspired by a program in Northern California, Youth on Course gives junior golfers, who must demonstrate a basic understanding of the rules and etiquette, a card that entitles them to play at participating courses for $5.
Youth on Course began as a pilot program with some City of Portland golf courses in 2012, and expanded in 2014; now, about 55 Oregon golf courses take part. For every round played, Oregon Junior Golf reimburses the golf course a matching $5; Jacobsen said about 1,000 Oregon juniors have a Youth on Course card, and that last year, the OGA reimbursed golf courses for 5,000 rounds played.
Both the Erling Jacobsen Tour and Youth on Course, which now comprise Oregon Junior Golf’s Jacobsen Youth Initiative, seek to address the issue of getting young players on the golf course at an affordable price.
“What we’ve learned is that we can get kids shoes, golf balls and equipment,” he said. “What we haven’t able to solve yet is access. ...
“The inspiration for me is growing up in the city of Portland. We had a peach-colored card and you could play the public courses for 50 cents. You could always go to Eastmoreland or Rose City, and you would see a bunch of kids hanging around the putting green, or in the pro shop, hanging out and playing golf.
“What I’ve noticed in the last several years is that we don’t see as many kids at golf courses. My goal is drive past the 10th fairway at Eastmoreland and look over and see four kids in the fairway, one pulling a trolley, the other kids with golf bags hanging down below their derrieres, and they’re just talking and having a good time playing golf.
“There will always be those kids whose parents introduce them to that top tier level. I just think there are a greater number of kids who are fascinated with the game, watching it on TV, who read about Ricky Fowler, Tiger Woods, and they just don’t have the access that some of these other kids do. It’s been a desire to of mine make it available for kids who have an interest in it.”
As he delved further into youth golf, Jacobsen realized that in addition to the work of the Oregon Golf Association, there were a myriad of other programs working to get young people involved in the game — programs such as the First Tee, or run by the Professional Golfers of America, or aimed at inner-city kids. In addition, different courses had developed programs for young golfers. In November 2014, that led to Jacobsen and the OGA staging the first Oregon Youth Golf Summit.
“There seemed to be some disparate junior golf programs that were all over the place,” he said. “Everybody was doing something really good for junior golfers. I simply asked, is there a central clearinghouse where everybody knows what’s going on ... because maybe there are some best practices we could share with each other.
“We sent out an e-mail and invited folks, PGA pros, people who are passionate about junior golf, junior golf program chairs. The first meeting, I had no idea if two people would show up. We had 45 people. They introduced their programs, and who they were and what they did. I was absolutely thrilled.”
The Youth Golf Summit now meets twice a year, and those discussions led to the creation of the Oregon Junior Golf Road Map, on the OGA web site, intended to be a one-stop source of youth golf opportunities around the state.
“There are so many good things going on for young people in golf,” Jacobsen said. “I keep hearing the game is dying. When I see the young people who seem to have an interest in the game, once they’re provided some access, I don’t think there’s as much of an issue with the younger set. ...
“The relationships I’ve built through my lifetime with not championship golfers, but just golfers, is irreplaceable. Some of my very close friendships began on a golf course. What my dad liked was to see kids go out and play, enjoy the camaraderie of the game, learn honesty, integrity, character.
“And that you don’t quit.”
When it comes to working on behalf of junior golf, he won’t quit.
Ron Bellamy is the former sports editor and columnist for The Register-Guard in Eugene. For past golf writings, visit ronbwriter.com.