The cities change. The golf courses change. Even some of the players change.
For Tim Jackson, it doesn’t seem to matter. There’s just something about the U.S. Senior Open that brings out some of the best for this highly respected amateur.
He’s hoping that will continue this week when he competes in his fourth USGA championship at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.
From the time he became age eligible for this event in 2009, the 53-year-old Jackson has made it his top priority on his playing schedule.
“This week, for me, is my whole year,” said Jackson, from Germantown, Tenn., and a 10-time Tennessee Player of the Year. “I pretty much set my whole golf schedule around (U.S. Senior Open).”
While he goes up against the best of the over-50 group, Jackson is hardly intimidated or feels as if he doesn’t belong.
“I don’t know what it is, but I just feel very comfortable playing in the Senior Open,” he said. “I like the way the USGA sets up the courses, and I always try to stay upbeat and positive during the competition.”
It’s been working so far, that’s for sure.
In his U.S. Senior Open debut in 2009 at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., Jackson wasted little time in making his presence known as he grabbed national attention.
He shot 66-67 the first two days, the two lowest rounds by an amateur in the event’s history. He was leading the championship at the halfway point and went on to tie for 11th with a 282 total, the lowest 72-hole score by an amateur.
The next year, he again made the 36-hole cut and tied for 32nd. Last year, he played all four days and ended up T-50.
Jackson, a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and member of two U.S. Walker Cup teams, also has shown over the years that he can compete with the game’s most talented young up-and-coming stars.
That was evident in June when he took on an extremely strong field at the Northeast Amateur Invitational. Playing in his 18th Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I., where more than half of the field was younger than his oldest son, Ben (26), Jackson was in the thick of the title race from start to finish.
No, he didn’t win, but his tie for fifth at 2-under 274 definitely impressed – not bad for the oldest player in the starting field of 82.
“I really don’t think too much about being 53,” Jackson said during the Northeast Am. “I’m just out here trying to make the most out of what I have left at this level. It’s all about testing yourself and putting yourself against the best competition to see where your game is.”
And heading into his fourth U.S. Senior Open, Jackson seems to have his game in just the right place.
In addition to his showing at the Northeast Am this year, Jackson has won the Coleman Invitational, was fourth at the Tennessee State Open, tied for second at the Lupton Memorial, finished third at the Birmingham National Invitational and was a semifinalist at the Tennessee Amateur Match Play Championship.
For now, however, it’s all about this week and the Senior Open.
“That’s my main focus. I just want to be at the top of my game for the Senior Open,” Jackson said. “If I play well there, it will open up some other opportunities for me.”
Two of those opportunities would be USGA events later this year. If he again finishes as low amateur, he would be exempt into the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur championships.
And with Jackson’s track record at the national championship, there’s no reason to doubt he won’t be taking advantage of some of those opportunities.
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AMATEURS ABOUND: This year’s starting field at the U.S. Senior Open includes 35 amateurs, the most since 1995. Among those are two current USGA champions: Louis Lee (Senior Amateur) and Randal Lewis (Mid-Amateur).
Another national championship also is being contested this week with the U.S. Amateur Public Links at Soldier Hollow Golf Club in Midway, Utah. There’s a number of mid and senior players competing, including the event’s oldest, Steve Groom, 54, of Raytown, Mo., who is playing in his ninth APL. John Veneziano, 42, of Mount Dora, Fla., leads the starting field with starts in the most USGA championships, at 12.
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HALL-BOUND: Next week, North Carolina’s Paul Simson, winner of more than 200 amateur titles in his long and illustrious career, will become the 23rd inductee into the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame. At 62, he will be the oldest player in the starting field of 168. His induction will take place on the eve (July 17) of this year’s Southern Amateur Championship at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock, Ark.