When Peter Jacobsen was named the recipient of the 2013 Payne Stewart Award on Tuesday at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, the only question was, What took so long?
Jacobsen, an NBC golf commentator and Champions Tour player, is regarded as one of the most colorful players of the past three decades. The award is given to a player who shows respect for the traditions of the game, commitment to uphold the game’s heritage of charitable support and professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct.
Jacobsen counted Stewart, who died in an airplane accident in 1999, among his closest friends in golf, and it didn’t take long before Jacobsen began spinning yarns about his former practice-round partner and bandmate.
“He was a dynamic personality, somebody who was as intense a competitor as there is in the history of the game but also somebody who knew how to have fun,” Jacobsen said. “Being with Payne was enlightening. He was one of the most interesting guys. He had a lot of thoughts. He had a lot of ideas, and he could play music, too.”
Long before The Golf Boys, golf had Stewart on harmonica, Larry Rinker and Mark Lye jamming on guitar and Jacobsen, the frontman, handling lyrics.
“I was the only one who would dare sing,” Jacobsen said.
They named the band Jake Trout and the Flounders, and before long the group had became a popular addition on the pro-am dinner circuit. Jacobsen recalled how they got their start when former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman asked the band to perform at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Jacobsen said the singer Huey Lewis used to say that Stewart was an 8-handicap on the harmonica.
“Which is pretty good because (Lewis) was about a 15-handicap golfer,” Jacobsen said. “So it’s a fair trade.”
Eventually, Jake Trout and the Flounders released “I Love to Play,” the band’s first album, in 1998, which included such songs as “Hittin’ on the back of the range” and “Love the one you whiff.”
Jacobsen recounted the story of how they rented a six-hour window at a recording studio in Los Angeles from 10 to 4 to record their second album. Glenn Frey, Alice Cooper, Bruce Hornsby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Lewis – all Rock and Roll Hall of Famers – were scheduled to make guest appearances.
At 10 a.m., Jacobsen and his bandmates pounded on the studio door. No one answered.
“We feel we got ripped off,” Jacobsen said.
When they phoned the producer, they discovered they had reserved 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
“Payne said, ‘You have to be a vampire to be a rock-‘n’-roll star,’ ” Jacobsen said. “That’s why we had a very short-lived career.”
When Stewart died, Jacobsen said the band did, too. But earlier this year, joined by four musical brothers, Jake Trout and the Ball Washers wrote original lyrics and recorded “Cheers and Boos,” to celebrate the craziness of the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale in song.
Jacobsen called it “a one-off,” but he might want to reconsider. Within hours, the song had shot up the charts in the comedy section of iTunes.