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In pro-am, fun is the main goal

"It's difficult to play well when you're laughing so dang hard,'' amateur John Barbee says.

By RODNEY PAGE

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 19, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- As a golfer, Charlie Daniels is a good musician.

As a musician, Peter Jacobsen is a good golfer.

Their worlds collided Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Classic Pro-Am on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course. Daniels, the country music star who dabbles in golf, and Jacobsen, the PGA professional who dabbles in music, played together in the traditional format that pairs a tour pro with four amateurs.

Mike Foster, Michael Vandiver and John Barbee, all from Toner Distributing, Inc., rounded out the group. From their first hole, which was the 16th in the morning shotgun start, it became apparent that having fun would take precedent over playing well.

"It's difficult to play well when you're laughing so dang hard," Barbee said.

At $4,000 per player, 184 amateurs in 46 groups had the chance to yuk it up for 18 holes with a PGA professional. Most of the $736,000 raised goes toward the tournament's budget.

For most of the groups it was the same scenario: Pro drives long and straight from the gold tees. Amateurs drive short and crooked from the blue tees. Pro hangs out with his caddie. Amateurs hang out with each other.

But the Jacobsen group was different. Although it shot 9-under par, well off the winning score of 18 under, it's hard to imagine any other group had a better time.

"It was so much fun," said Daniels, an avid golfer who hosts his own celebrity tournament every January in Clearwater. "I can't imagine playing with anybody else better than (Jacobsen). He never got uptight about anything."

That's probably because Jacobsen never seems to get uptight. One of the most flamboyant golfers on the tour, he never distanced himself from his playing partners. He helped line up putts, gave swing lessons, and kept up a steady stream of one-liners.

"That a boy, those 30,000 people love you," Jacobsen said to Barbee after he drained a putt on No. 11 in front of a gallery of two.

"I can quit now. I've seen the best golf shot ever," Barbee said after Jacobsen stuck one 2 feet from the pin on the 175-yard, par-3 13th.

"You quit seven holes ago," Jacobsen cracked.

As an added bonus, this group not only had Jacobsen but also Daniels.

"The Devil went down to Georgia on that shot Charlie," Vandiver said after Daniels' tee shot on No. 9 found the fairway.

"Where's that Poulan," Daniels said after his next shot caromed off a tree limb.

Jacobsen, a 24-year professional with six tour victories, easily could skip the pro-am. He has played in hundreds, but he said he doesn't mind.

"I look at it as a way to see the golf course one more time, but more importantly you have to realize that this is their day," Jacobsen said. "One of the things PGA players realize is that these sponsors make the tournaments viable. It's their chance to mix with the pros and see that we're regular guys like they are.

"I have a lot of business ventures, most of them in the golf field. The guys I meet at these pro-ams, I bet 20-25 percent of them I stay in touch with. It's good business."

This was the first time Daniels and Jacobsen have met. Jacobsen, who started his own musical group, Jake Trout and the Flounders with the late Payne Stewart, said he still plays a little. But he didn't seek any musical advice from Daniels.

"I played in one of these with Hootie and the Blowfish a while ago and we brought guitars out on the course and played," Jacobsen said. "I told Charlie that if we brought a guitar and a fiddle out here today, oh, man. But I did get a guitar pick."

Sometimes the pro has more fun than the amateurs.

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