Tim Jackson, of Germantown, Tenn., is one of five players to win multiple U.S. Mid-Amateur titles. In 1994 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., he edged Tommy Brennan, 1 up, in a match played in horrific weather conditions. Seven years later, Jackson defeated George Zahringer, 1 up, at San Joaquin Country Club in Fresno, Calif., in the first 36-hole final match. Jackson also was a member of two USA Walker Cup Teams (1995 and 1999), was the stroke-play medalist in the 2001 U.S. Amateur and is a three-time low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open. The 56-year-old father of two boys currently operates a successful car wash business in the Memphis area.
Has the U.S. Mid-Amateur defined your golf career?
Jackson: I was kind of unknown on the national scene and then I had a summer [in 1994] where I got hot and won our city amateur [in Memphis] and won our state amateur. Then I went to the U.S. Amateur and lost to Tiger [Woods] in the quarters (5 and 4) and went straight from there to the [U.S.] Mid-Amateur. And, of course, you are riding that wave of good play. You are riding the confidence, and from there it kind of set up the next 20 years.
So the Mid-Amateur title in 1994 changed your life?
Jackson: It did. From a golf perspective, it set it up. Now you have the luxury to play anywhere you want to play.
The 1994 final was not stellar from a golf perspective as neither player made a birdie. How much was the bad weather a factor?
Jackson: I think I shot 75 or 76 and made three or four bogeys and won the match, 1 up. And I was 1 down with four to play. I was in a greenside bunker and got up and down from 10 feet to stay 1 down. And I won the next hole with a par. Then I won 17 with a par. And 18, we hit driver-3-woods up that hill against the wind. I hit a great shot to like 30 feet. He was about 60 feet [away] and his putt horse-shoed [around the hole]. It was the most incredible thing. And I am putting against the wind from 30 feet and knock it 6 feet past the hole. Now I have this 6-footer [to win]. All I had to do was get it started because the wind just blew it straight into the hole.
Did you ever think you could win a second title?
Jackson: I did, because I played well in a lot of Mid-Amateurs. I got to the semis three or four different occasions other than when I won. Kenny Bakst beat me in 1997. [Jerry] Courville beat me in the quarters one year. I’ve lost in the semis against two guys who have gone on to win (Bakst and Nathan Smith in 2012). I always thought I could [win another one] because I was advancing deep into match play. And San Joaquin was a good fit for me. Bermuda[grass] greens. And it wasn’t a long golf course. Good par 3s.
What about the perks for winning the Mid-Amateur?
Jackson: For me, it set me up for the Walker Cup Team that first time [in 1995]. I won [the Mid-Amateur] in the off year, so I was the current Mid-Amateur champion going into that Walker Cup year. That really helps. I was able to set a schedule and build around those four or five major tournaments, and it worked out. I had top-fives in all of them.
What is your best memory of playing in the Masters?
Jackson: I played with Gary Player the first time I was there. Bernhard Langer was good. I enjoyed playing with Langer. I played with [Ben] Crenshaw. My best memory was just being a part of the event. Unfortunately for me, torrential rains fell. I need the golf course to be firm and windier conditions. It was just a quagmire both times. When it gets like that, you’re going to have five or six people who can win the tournament. It accentuates it on that golf course.
How about being low amateur in three U.S. Senior Opens and being in contention to win in 2009?
Jackson: I got through the third round and I was one back and played in the next-to-last group [on Sunday]. That was special. There were a lot of people there [at Crooked Stick] and they were all pulling for me. It was pretty neat. My family was there. My son, Austin, caddied for me. We had a great week. It was a little stressful, but it was fun.
Was the Mid-Amateur the perfect championship for you, since you didn’t get into amateur golf until after college?
Jackson: When I started playing amateur golf in the early 1990s, I looked up events like the Sunnehanna and the Porter Cup and the Northeast. I remember the Northeast Amateur and par was 276. And 8-over par 284 was finishing in the top 10. So off I go and start playing and it stayed that way until about the time the ball changed. When the ball changed – and everybody benefited from it – but the guys who swing it at 120 [mph] get an exponential benefit. I always thought when I was 40, I was young in golf years because I didn’t have all those battle scars [from college] that a lot of people had. And you build up battle scars in this game.