Life’s Fairways

KU Men's Golf
Andy Spencer, Big 12 Championship, Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 2018

There are many wondrous moments the COVID-19 virus and resulting isolation have robbed us of enjoying this spring. I can only speak for myself, but I miss the spring sports. They are my youth serum.

My love of baseball, track & field, rowing, tennis, softball and golf make these past few months brutal. Each sport is abundantly unique. However, the simple truth is that these sports allow me to relax, breathe fresh air and soak up the sun. 

I need that after the madness that accompanies KU men’s basketball’s run to and through the NCAA National Championships. This year there was none of that madness followed by the bloom of spring sports. 

In the humongous scheme of what our world is facing, the lack of those sports might seem far from a big deal. However, can I not yearn for something as visually stimulating as a KU golfer striking the ball down a manicured fairway on a beautiful and historical course? 

Since Jamie Bermel became the head coach in 2012, the Kansas men’s golf team’s climb up the national rankings has made covering them a pleasure. The fact that it is done on some of the most iconic golf courses in the United States is a giant bonus.

Bermel is a demanding coach. He expects excellence from his players and throughout his program. I learned quickly to leave Bermel alone as he moves around the course tracking play. Before rounds, I can stand on the driving range with Bermel and his affable associate head coach, Chris Wilson, sharing great chats filled with blunt talk and laughter. Yet, when the first player tees off, it is all business. I like that.

A few days after the events I cover, Bermel sends me a thoughtful text message. I save them. Bermel compliments the photos, my ability to arrange travel, housing and coverage without being a pest. He makes sure I understand what that means to him and the program. He appreciates that I will be there to do what is needed and expected. I like that very much. 

In photo workshops, I always mention that covering golf as a young photographer helped me grasp composition and understand its importance. Most golf is covered with long telephoto lenses. Professional tournaments dictate that. I covered my share of professional events, which were always fun. To be alone, though, on a course with the ability to move freely with the players is an absolute treat. 

The players and their parents have openly embraced me and made me feel part of the team. The mixture of American players and internationals is a wonderful blend. I have never run into any of what people assume would be country club snootiness. 

In 2019, while walking The Old White Course at the Greenbrier, a KU player said to me, “It’s a good thing you are a lot older than me. If we were closer in age, oh, the troubles you and I would get into.” As they say in golf, his cherished thought was “dead solid perfect,” as was the approach shot that golfer made right after to set up a birdie.

Remember, as well, that anything said about Bermel’s resolve on the course was wonderfully balanced after the Jayhawks won their NCAA Regional in Stockton, California, in May 2017. In his closing speech, Bermel’s two demands were for the players to make sure they were on time for the team’s departure for the airport in Sacramento the next morning and, well, we just won’t go there. Just know it was all too hilarious.

Here, in a much too small gallery, is my grateful thanks to all the fabulous people, fantastic times and gorgeous courses that have made my journey down life’s fairways very special. 

KU Men's Golf
Champions Charlie Hillier, Daniel Sutton, Harry Hillier, Daniel Hudson, NCAA Regional, The Reserve at Spanos Park, Stockton, California, May 2018
KU Men's Golf
Ben Sigel, Autotrader Collegiate Classic, Duluth, Georgia, October 2017
KU Men's Golf
Charlie Hillier, Big 12 Golf Championship, Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Kansas, April 2017
KU Men's Golf
Daniel Sutton, NCAA Championship, Karsten Creek Golf Club, Stillwater, Oklahoma, May 2018
KU Men's Golf
Daniel Hudson, Bayou City Collegiate Championship, Pearland, Texas, October 2016
KU Men's Golf
Dan Sutton, Big 12 Men’s Golf Championship, Southern Hill Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 2018
KU Men's Golf
Chase Hanna, Big 12 Men’s Golf Championship, Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Kansas, April 2017
KU Men's Golf
Charlie Hillier, NCAA Men’s Golf Regional, University of Alabama Golf Course, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, May 2016
KU Men's Golf
Charlie Hillier, Shoal Creek Invitational, Shoal Creek Club, Shoal Creek, Alabama, September 2018.
KU Men's Golf
Charlie Hillier, Bayou City Collegiate Championship, Pearland, Texas, October 2016
KU Men's Golf
Harry Hillier, Head Coach Jamie Bermel, Charlie Hillier, NCAA Regional, Standford Golf Course, Stanford, California May 2019
KU Men's Golf
Harry Hillier, NCAA Regional, The Reserve at Spanos Park, Stockton, California, May 2018
KU Men's Golf
Horse-drawn carriage, The Old White Course, The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, April 2019
KU Men's Golf
Jake Scarrow, Shoal Creek Invitational, Shoal Creek Club, Shoal Creek, Alabama, September 2018.
KU Men's Golf
Drew Sheperd, Big 12 Match Play Championship, The Clubs at Houston Oaks, Hockley, Texas, October 2019.
KU Men's Golf
Ben Sigel, Big 12 Match Play Championship, The Clubs at Houston Oaks, Hockley, Texas, October 2019.
KU Men's Golf
Andy Spencer, NCAA Golf Regional, UT Golf Club, Travis City, Texas, May 2017
KU Men's Golf
Daniel Sutton, NCAA Golf Championship, Karstan Creek Golf Club, Stillwater, Oklahoma, May 2018.
KU Men's Golf
Big 12 Individual Champions Chase Hanna, Assoicate Head Coach Chris Wilson, Big 12 Golf Championship, Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson, Kansas, April 2017.

Jeff Jacobsen has photographed practically every big event the sports world has to offer during a professional career that spans over 53 years. Jacobsen has seen things up close that only a diehard sports fan could in their dreams. His work for the Topeka Capital-Journal, Arizona Republic, Kansas Athletics, Inc., many national publications and now Action Images Photography, Inc., cemented his reputation as one of the nation’s finest sports photographers.

Follow Jeff Jacobsen on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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