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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Palmer Jackson makes his mark with ND golf

Nearing a month into his first collegiate season, freshman Palmer Jackson has proven to be a worthwhile addition to the Notre Dame men’s golf squad.

Jackson had already made his mark with a terrific high school golf career. He was the first golfer in history to win the CR Miller Match Play three times, first winning the tournament in 2015 at the age of 14, becoming the youngest champion in the event’s history, more recently in 2017 and once more this past summer. These victories helped Jackson qualify for the 2018 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, in addition to several other big tournaments. He competed in the 2018 Junior PGA Championship, where he finished 23rd, and the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur.

At the 2019 Memorial AJGA at Ohio State’s Scarlet Course, he dominated the rest of the field with a final score of +2, while posting round scores of 72-73 and closing out the third and final round with his best score of the week, a 70. Don’t let the +2 deceive you though, as Jackson was able to birdie nine of the 54 holes he played at one of the most storied courses in college golf and ranked the Golf Channel’s top rated college course from a coaches’ poll in 2009. The Scarlet Course was designed by world-renowned course architect Alister MacKenzie and was completed in 1938. It most recently received renovations by Jack Nicklaus in 2006. Throughout the tournament Jackson never posted anything worse than a bogey on his worst holes.

Staff Photographer | The Observer
Irish freshman Palmer Jackson follows through on his swing during a practice Sept. 5.

Despite his young age, Jackson makes up for it with consistent and steady play on the course. A Pittsburgh native, Jackson spoke on how his experiences at top-tier courses across the nation have prepared him for play at the collegiate level.

“Courses in the midwest are a little bit different than Pittsburgh, especially the undulation. There are a lot more hills in Pittsburgh; coming here it is a little bit easier because it is flat, but it is the same type of grass — it’s bent grass,” he said. “Being familiar with that has really helped me to acclimate here. Playing in big tournaments like the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Junior just tells me I know I can compete with every collegiate player out here — everyone in the nation — so it just gives me the confidence I need to help the team out and help us produce wins.” 

When asked about some of his most memorable moments out on the course throughout his golfing career, Jackson provided some personal achievements of which he is most proud.

“At Inverness this summer, I was in match play at the U.S. Junior and I was on number 18 and I chipped in to win, which was really cool,” he said. “There were multiple times this year where I came from behind to secure a spot in a tournament or I won a qualifier. Then I really focused on winning just to give myself motivation to just make the cut.

“One time in a match play tournament, two or three years ago, I chipped in from on the cart path, which was pretty crazy. I’ve had four holes-in-one, but none of them were within the last three years. ... Obviously the U.S. [Amateur] run was really special. I was playing guys that were Big 12 champions, SEC champions and I just managed to beat them in match play, which was really, really cool. 

An alumnus of Franklin Regional High School, Jackson graduated with the Highest Honor Roll with Distinction and was a National Honor Society student, and all the while was a four-year letter winner in baseball as well as golf. Jackson, a pitcher in high school, compared the similarities between the two sports that seem to wildly contradict each other in terms of technique and form.

“I can compare pitching to golf, and it is actually probably more similar, in that as a pitcher, you are completely in control of what is going to happen … you control where the ball is going to go and what your thoughts are before you throw the ball,” he said. “[In golf and baseball], that is the most important thing. If you are thinking about your target and thinking about what you need to think about, which is positive thoughts, you are going to dominate whatever you are going to do. It was a good transition for me because [in] the Pittsburgh winters I couldn't golf much, and then I’d go out in the spring and play baseball and it got me back into winning, determined mentality to really go out there and try to win and do the best I can. If something bad happened, somebody hit a home run off me, so be it, but I was going to do everything I could to throw the ball exactly where I wanted to, and that translated to golf very well.” 

With an accomplished golf career already in his back pocket, Jackson spoke on the goals he set coming into his first collegiate season.

“I didn't have that many distinct goals. I wanted to win a college tournament this year. If it works out, it works out,” he said. “I had a fourth at Conway Farms [at the Windon Memorial Classic hosted by Northwestern], which was pretty good. I haven't been playing my best golf, but you can’t expect every week to have your best stuff. My goal was just to help out the team a lot, help the team win. We’ve won two so far, it looks like we’ve got a good chance at the next two tournaments this fall to get the win. But I’m just looking to get better every day, just trying to take it easy on myself, not really think about the future and stay in the present.”