By David Shefter, USGA
Chattanooga, Tenn. (Sept 9, 2005) -– Any time Tim Jackson logged on to look at a USGA championship or another prestigious competition Web site last year, he would see the familiar names. He would see the scores and wonder what he might be shooting at that particular venue. The competitive juices would begin to flow at a rapid pace.
But all the 46-year-old from Germantown, Tenn., could do was ponder the circumstances. Physical ailments weren’t keeping the two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from the golf course.
“We had some business opportunities,” said Jackson, explaining the reason for the sabbatical. “We had a family-owned food-service company … and we sold the business in May of this year.”
Jackson’s father had some health problems in 2004 and Tim stepped in to handle many of the affairs in the transition of ownership. Of course, something needed to be sacrificed and it was his golf. Jackson did file entries for the 2004 U.S. Amateur and Mid-Amateur, but withdrew from both competitions (he was exempt for the Mid-Am). He only competed in two golf tournaments all summer: a local event in Memphis that he won in a playoff and the Tennessee State Amateur, where he placed among the top 15.
During the hiatus, Jackson also took time to help his oldest son, Ben, get off to school at the University of Mississippi. He went to a bunch of football games in the fall and spent more time with his family, which also includes another son (Austin) and his wife (Karen). He also admitted to adding 15 pounds to his frame which he vows to lop off between the 2005 and ’06 golf season with the help of a physical trainer.
“It really wasn’t that difficult because after really going at it hard for 10 or 11 years, it was nice to get away,” said Jackson, a two-time USA Walker Cupper (1995 and 1999). “I got to take advantage of professional things that needed to be taken care of and try to get that stuff in order. I just had a lot of things going on.”
But the time away from the game rejuvenated him and made him hungrier to return, which makes this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at The Honors Course that much more special to Jackson. Not only is the event taking place in his home state, but it’s also a chance to prove something to himself and the rest of his competitors.
If his 2005 summer success is any correlation to how he’ll perform, Jackson has every reason to be positive about his chances.
He finished fourth at the prestigious Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island, was sixth at the Southern Amateur, tied for 12th at the Tennessee Open and won both the Tennessee Match Play and Tennessee State Amateur, taking the latter at Memphis Country Club the first week of August with five consecutive birdies in the last round to edge longtime in-state rival Danny Green by a stroke. At the Match Play, he earned medalist honors during stroke-play qualifying and then went on to defeat Peter Malnati in the final.
Jackson took nearly a month off after the Tennesse State Amateur, playing only a handful of times in preparation for the Mid-Amateur, a championship he last won in 2001 in Fresno, Calif., at San Joaquin Country Club. He also won the title in 1994.
“I am just trying to position myself as I’ve got something to prove and that’s how I want to do it,” said Jackson prior to his first practice round on Thursday. “I’m just trying to keep myself under the rock, so to speak, and keep pushing. I think everyday you go out and play this game you need to forget what happened yesterday, good or bad. That’s why I took so much time off between winning the state amateur [and coming here]. So I’m kind of anxious to see how I’ll do.”
Jackson spent part of the winter video taping his swing with his teacher, Mark Grace (not related to the former pro baseball player). But in the early part of the spring – March, April and May – the feeling was not good. Jackson admitted that his swing was “real ugly.” He had too many thoughts going through his mind.
“I finally told [Grace], I am going to break it down to two things,” said Jackson. “I said, ‘I am sorry, but I am not as smart as you are. I’ve got to think about two things.’ ”
But the biggest obstacle had nothing to do with mechanics or swing planes. It was all inside of Jackson’s head. Once he gained confidence, everything else would fall into place.
“Being confident and committed [to each shot],” said Jackson. “It’s just the intangible things it takes to play well. That’s the piece that puts the icing on it for you.”
Winning in front of the home folks would be sweet as well, but Jackson admits it’s never that easy to succeed in friendly territory. He is one of 11 Tennesseans in the field and one of two from the Volunteer State to have won this championship (Green is the other).
“There is a little bit [of pressure],” he said. “I think we all want to play well for our state and our home people. [But] this game doesn’t make any sense. We had a mid-amateur come here in ’91 from California (Mitch Vogues) and win the [U.S.] Amateur. I went out to San Joaquin [in 2001] and almost didn’t go because of 9/11 [terrorist attacks] and won. You just never know. It’s weird.”
David Shefter is a USGA staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: To view the latest scores from the US Mid Am, please click the tournament link at the top of the page (amateurgolf.com membership requested)