Soren Jacobsen's 50 rounds in 50 states in 50 days makes stop in Maryland

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Soren Jacobsen knows he's the envy of every amateur golfer in America. He knows this not just because he's living every weekend warrior's dream — 50 rounds in 50 states in 50 days for his 50th birthday — but because nearly everyone he meets during his cross-country road trip tells him how jealous they are.

"It's a very good-spirited jealousy," he joked.

The senior information technology specialist from Boise, Idaho, began his trip April 21 at Aspen Lakes in Oregon and will end it June 10 at Royal Hawaiian Golf Club in Kailua. Along with his wife, Melanie, Jacobsen is writing a book based on their adventure, titled "Fairways and Freeways," as well as a yet-to-be titled children's book starring Mully the squirrel (short for mulligan) — not a squirrel at all but an excitable talking club head cover with a wooden puzzle map of the United States.

"People have asked, '50 days with your husband? Is your marriage going to survive?'" Melanie Jacobsen said. "You know, I like this guy. Occasionally he gets on my nerves, but life happens. But this is an adventure and it's fun."

In addition to writing about their experiences on the road, on the tee boxes and in the many hotels and Airbnb's dotted across the country, they're also trying to raise money and awareness for a charity of their choosing in each state.

On Saturday, Soren Jacobsen played Worthington Manor near Frederick, and has chosen to spotlight Esperanza Center in Baltimore, which offers counsel to immigrants. His father came to the United States from Denmark during World War II.

"In every community, there are people that are doing stuff for the community, so I thought that by highlighting a charity, you could kind of see that," Jacobsen said. "Everybody is out there doing their own thing, and I thought it was a nice commonality to highlight."

The idea for the trip dates to Jacobsen's early 20s, when he was still in college. As he approached a milestone birthday, he again thought about his fantasy golf tour, but this time more seriously. Could he and his wife really take more than two months off from work? Could they afford it? Was he too old?

"I thought the idea was cool back then," he said. "But back then, my idea of a 50-year-old was somebody with a walker or a cane."

Jacobsen, a former marathon runner, has defied his own expectations. In fact, he's trying to walk every course. A regular pick-up basketball player, he golfed 10 days in a row earlier this year and was satisfied with how his body responded. With average scores in the high 80s to low 90s, he's hoping to bring his handicap down by 10 points.

Still, he's playing with a torn meniscus in his right knee, an injury he suffered well before the trip started. He's also dealing with a biceps tendon problem that sometimes keeps his elbow from elevating above his shoulder. There's also wear and tear on his hands and blisters in places he never imagined. He has found athletic tape and the occasional aspirin help, as well as eating healthier — less carbohydrates and sweets and more salads.

"It's still mostly sunshine and roses; however, right now there are a few more groans when picking my ball out of the cup than I'd like," he wrote 17 days into the trip in a post titled "Reality Check – Golf (every day) Is Hard," on his Fairways and Freeways blog.

Having completed nearly half of the journey, Jacobsen has been surprised to find how many strangers are interested. He has been interviewed by the Sylacauga News in Alabama, as well as two radio stations and a podcast. On Sunday, he has a play-along scheduled with WTOP's Noah Frank, who writes a golf blog about local courses in the Washington metro area.

"There's several people living vicariously through me right now, which is a weird thing to think about," Jacobsen said.

Though the idea was always in the back of Jacobsen's mind, planning began in earnest about a year ago. He credits his wife for doing the heavy lifting — researching and contacting courses and charities, arranging lodging and mapping the route. Melanie Jacobsen, a project manager who works from home, said the job pretty much became full-time in October.

"There were times for myself, maybe because I was in the trenches so much, I would get a little overwhelmed," she said. "So I said, 'OK, Soren. Tell me what I need to do today. Do I need to be contacting golf courses? Do I need to be working on lodging? Am I looking into charities? Which spreadsheet should I be opening?' We work really well together in that regard."

But even the best plans go awry. The rental car they started with was a bit too small for their luggage, which includes nine to 10 days worth of clothes each, clubs, camera equipment and snacks, so they upgraded to a bigger model. In Oklahoma, they discovered the course they chose was closed and had to scramble to find another before day's end.

Then there's the weather. To hit the 50 days benchmark, that means playing in rain or shine — including a downpour in Tennessee. While driving in North Texas, they were hit by a wind burst that nearly pushed the car off the road and left a 6-inch crack in the windshield. They have yet to swap cars, and it has only spread since. They've joked that just as they've finished half their journey, it's moved halfway across the screen.

"Experiences are more important to us than things," Melanie Jacobsen said. "Some people will have a new car every two or three years, and have a car payment, and high insurance rates, and that sort of thing. And that's fine, and that's cool, and that matters to them. We really don't care.

"We don't drive newer vehicles, so we take that money and put it somewhere else. We're having this experience. We're going to be together for 50 days straight, which both of us thought was grand. We're going to see the United States, we're going to travel, we're going to explore, we're going to write a book together. All of this was exciting. A little daunting, but daunting is exciting."

While her husband said he felt "shocked" by how much other people were taking an interest in their journey, Melanie Jacobsen doesn't think they're doing anything out of the ordinary — no matter how many people tell them how jealous they are.

"To me, he and I are just on a road trip," she said. "It's kind of a long one and it took a little bit of planning, but when people go, 'Whoa, that's so amazing,' and, 'That's so crazy,' or whatever, I don't really understand why or how.

"We're just normal people driving down the road with a cracked windshield."

cdoon@baltsun.com

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