Jacobsen Hopes for a Hollywood Ending

Peter Jacobsen is seven shots off the lead in his first U.S. Open since 1996.
Peter Jacobsen is seven shots off the lead in his first U.S. Open since 1996. (By Jamie Squire -- Getty Images)
By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 19, 2005

PINEHURST, N.C., June 18 -- An actor, a singer and a comedian, Peter Jacobsen has sampled his share of other pursuits during his nearly 30 years as a professional golfer.

He's the touring pro who beat Kevin Costner in the movie "Tin Cup" to win the U.S. Open. He's the onetime vocalist for Jake Trout and the Flounders, a rock band that included Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Hootie and the Blowfish's Darius Rucker. He's the center of laughter in the clubhouse when imitating his golfing peers.

In the third round of the U.S. Open, Jacobsen got back to what makes him most comfortable, and he did so with such proficiency that one older patron yelled on No. 18, "Strike a blow for the old folks."

"You know, I'm right there with him. I've got my AARP card," said Jacobsen, 51, who though not retired has scaled back his golf schedule.

One of the most popular players when he was on the PGA Tour, Jacobsen last year joined the Champions Tour and promptly won the U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive. That victory got him into his first U.S. Open since 1996, and Saturday he put on a clinic by playing Nos. 4 through 10 in 5 under, including an ace at the 175-yard ninth, en route to a round of 1-under 69 at Pinehurst No. 2.

Jacobsen used a 7-iron for his hole-in-one, landing his tee shot on the front of the green. The ball bounced once, then in. The gallery reacted with a standing ovation and touchdown signals, and that was all the confirmation Jacobsen needed to begin high-fiving everyone in his group.

"I've had 16" holes-in-one, he said. "Fifteen of them, I played all by myself."

After his run from Nos. 4 through 10, Jacobsen was three shots off the pace. His 69 was one of only two sub-par rounds on the day and allowed him to wonder momentarily if his circumstances in "Tin Cup" could be played out in real life.

In the movie, Costner's character, Roy McAvoy, is a journeyman golf pro trying to write a Hollywood ending at the U.S. Open. The defining scene comes when McAvoy refuses to lay up on No. 18, hitting ball after ball into the water before holing out for a 12 and finishing well behind Jacobsen.

"The most interesting part about that whole movie was Costner hitting his second shot," Jacobsen said. "Remember when he hit in the lake on 18 all those times? Well, we were there, we were shooting three or four days, and Tommy Armour and Jerry Pate and [John] Cook, and [Bruce Lietzke], a lot of guys were there, and Costner had to hit this 3-wood from the last hole and have it just barely get there, or not far enough, and he was hitting these shots and did a great job hitting 10 or 15, and they said, 'Cut. That's a wrap.' And Costner turned to us and said, 'Hey, do you think you guys can get there from here?' We looked at the sprinkler and dropped 4- and 5-irons [close to the hole], and he said, 'It's time for lunch.' "

Jacobsen said that scene was shot at a country club outside Houston -- "Deerwood, I think" -- and the course was intended to resemble the layout at Pinehurst No. 2, also the site of the 1999 U.S. Open. That year, Jacobsen's close friend Payne Stewart, who played harmonica in Jake Trout and the Flounders, won the event. He died months later in a plane crash.

"I've been thinking about him all week. It's hard not to," Jacobsen said. "It's just very, very special. And I've never won a major championship. The USGA Seniors is as close as I'll ever come, other than 'Tin Cup.' It's special being back here at Pinehurst after the tragedy that claimed Payne's life.

"This may sound crazy, but just being here this week and playing well on Thursday and Friday and having a chance to play on the weekend is very special in itself, so whatever happens, whatever the USGA wanted to serve up, I was ready to take."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company