PORTLAND, Ore. – For his spot-on impression of Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen filled his shirt with a box of golf balls and walked heel-to-toe to the laughs of the large gallery at Portland Golf Club.
The ever-affable Jacobsen used to entertain crowds with his many impersonations as the host of a charity golf tournament that was affectionately known as Peter’s Party.
On Sunday, the parodies returned in the Umpqua Bank Challenge, Jacobsen’s revival of his popular tournament that was a fixture in his hometown for 17 years until 2002.
This year’s incarnation of the event opened with a “clinic” for fans that included very little instruction. On Monday and Tuesday Jacobsen and several fellow former and current pros play a two-man team better-ball event for a $750,000 purse.
Among those in the field for the Umpqua Bank Challenge are Arnold Palmer, John Cook, Ben Crenshaw, Jay Haas, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Nick Price, Fuzzy Zoeller, Steve Elkington and Scott McCarron.
McCarron was a last-minute addition to the field. Ben Crane of Beaverton, Ore., was a “maybe” but claimed a spot into this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
“Peter Jacobsen has really been like my big brother on the PGA Tour,” McCarron said. “I’ve done a lot of events with him and anytime he asks me to do anything I’m right there ready to go.”
McCarron is paired with hunting buddy Elkington on Monday.
Peter’s Party, known in later years as the Fred Meyer Challenge, ended in 2002 when it lost sponsorship. Jacobsen instead turned to luring the Tradition, a major on the Champions Tour, to Oregon. That annual senior circuit tournament played for several years at a club west of Portland and later in central Oregon.
Then the Tradition fell victim to the economic downturn and lost title sponsor Jeld-Wen, an Oregon-based window and door manufacturer. The event moved to Birmingham, Ala., this year.
The loss left a void in Oregon for golf fans. The only high-profile tournament was the LPGA Safeway Classic held each year at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club.
Jacobsen said he hopes the Umpqua Bank Challenge will be the first of many.
“It feels like coming home again, which, of course, it is,” he said.
Jacobsen turned pro in 1976 and won seven times on the PGA Tour. Popular with fans because of his genial personality, Jacobsen has also won two tournaments on the Champions Tour, both majors.
On Sunday he played master of ceremonies at his clinic.
“Good to be back, isn’t it?” he asked the crowd to a big cheer.
In addition to Stadler, Jacobsen also imitated buddy Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd and Lee Trevino, complete with his crooked cap and the occasional “Whoo!”
The chummy feel of Peter’s Party was evident beforehand when P.J. Carlesimo, a former Trail Blazers head coach and current assistant for the Toronto Raptors, was seen having an animated discussion with Casey Martin, a former PGA Tour pro and now coach of the Oregon Ducks golf team. Former Blazers Brian Grant and Terry Porter signed autographs.
Former Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington lent a hand, even though he couldn’t play in the pro-am because of a serious bike accident about three weeks ago. He was hospitalized for three days after being hit by an SUV, and broke his collarbone and several ribs.
Singer Huey Lewis poked fun at the Oregon-centric guests.
“I personally don’t give a damn about Oregon,” he joked. “It rains here all the time anyway, doesn’t it?”
Jacobsen and Curtis Strange finished the inaugural Peter’s Party in a tie with Greg Norman and Gary Player. Norman and Brad Faxon won the event as a team three times.
The Fred Meyer Challenge raised some $13 million for charity. The 36-hole Umpqua Bank Challenge will benefit the Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation-Oregon.