U’s Jacobson led by example

Adam Fink

Facing program elimination two years ago, many Minnesota’s women’s golfers transferred or gave up the sport. Even the coach at the time, Melissa Arthur-Ringler, quit and took another job.

But for Katie Jacobson, this was an opportunity for the opposite.

Jacobson, a North Dakota native who always wanted to play for a Big Ten school, decided to transfer from Montana to Minnesota despite the uncertainties surrounding the program.

“I wanted to play where golf was taken a little more seriously,” Jacobson said. “I always went to Montana with the idea that I might transfer.”

The senior’s season – and collegiate career – ended last week when the Gophers finished last at the Big Ten Championships. While Jacobson’s final score put her as the team’s top finisher, her impact is felt as much on the course as it is off.

In her two years at Minnesota, Jacobson helped rebuild a distraught program and lay down the standards for the future.

“As a captain, I really tried to be a leader,” Jacobson said. “I hope it is instilled in the others and is passed down.”

Jacobson – along with her “summer” friend, junior teammate Terra Petsinger (they have been playing golf together in summer since their early teens) – have created a solid work ethic for the team and started numerous team bonding traditions.

For example, the team had a golf formal this year and started an annual tradition of traveling to one of the Gophers’ football games. (This year it was Iowa, next year it is Wisconsin.)

Although Jacobson isn’t completely satisfied with her scores while at Minnesota (they are six or seven strokes higher than when she competed at Montana), she doesn’t regret the decision to join the Gophers.

“I really felt like I had an opportunity to create something special,” the 22-year-old said.

Jacobson’s decision to transfer to Minnesota overcame two obstacles. First, she wasn’t sure there would be an existing program. And second, she nearly had a change of heart three weeks before school started for her junior season.

It took a lot convincing, especially from Petsinger, for Jacobson to leave Montana.

“She felt like she was missing something she couldn’t achieve at Montana,” said Petsinger, who was in regular contact with Jacobson and one other recruit. “It took awhile to get a coach in here so I don’t think she wanted to commit to a program without a coach.”

Coach Katie Weiss, who was hired in August 2002, needed golfers to fill her roster, but got more than she bargained for.

Weiss, who said her job became a little easier with Jacobson’s decision to enroll, found a golfer whom she could build around in the interim.

“It was a huge boost to my confidence,” Weiss said. “She was a little older and had some experience. More than anything, she should be commended for coming here.

“She came with a huge leap of faith.”

Jacobson departs the program just as the team has a foundation to build on. With six underclassmen and Petsinger returning, Minnesota has an up-side the program has not seen in quite awhile.

And while Jacobson might not be a part of the future, she is a key reason there is one.