There is nothing better than being on a golf course when the weather is nice, says TJ Jackson. Fortunately, there are a lot of nice days in Mobile, Alabama, where Jackson is head men’s and women’s golf coach at the University of Mobile. Plus, UM’s 4-day academic week gives students Fridays off, meaning even more time on the golf course.
When he recruits student-athletes to one of the largest athletic programs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Jackson said character, personality and strong faith are good starting points, then he looks for the most talented golfers who are committed to their academics.
We asked Jackson about his passion for golf and coaching at a Christian university where student-athletes are known.
A: Commitment to being a student-athlete is the key. Our players have different class schedules which requires them to be both flexible and determined to achieve their goals, both academically and athletically. We typically condition twice a week and practice/play 4-6 days per week, weather permitting. It is difficult to get all the players together (we currently have 15 total players) for a team practice, so not having classes on Fridays is nice for that reason. Mondays through Thursdays we do mostly single or small group practices around their classes at the golf course. We are fortunate to have a lighted driving range on campus and Robert Trent Jones Magnolia Grove, which is about 15 minutes from campus, as our home practice facility.
Q: How do you help student-athletes balance their academic life and their athletic life?
A: First and foremost, our players are here to get their degree, so communication is a huge factor in scheduling practices around their class demands. Most of our players are very good at balancing everything, but sometimes they may need time away from golf for academic purposes. As long as they are taking care of their priorities, then I am willing to be more flexible.
Q: You have coached at UM for almost 6 years. What is your background?
A: I graduated from the University of South Alabama where I majored in English in 1989. I played collegiate golf at the University of Kentucky, Spring Hill College and South Alabama and then gave it a shot at professional golf for 5 years on a variety of mini tours. I coached the South Alabama women’s team for 15 years prior to my current position here at UM.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I am passionate about the game of golf and the history of it. As I have aged, I have become very interested in history, which is funny, because I didn’t like it at all when I was in school. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to teach the golf class on campus, KIN 201, and part of that is the history of the game which dates back to the late 1800s in the U.S. The game itself basically has remained the same, but the styles, equipment, golf courses and technology have allowed the game to evolve drastically.
Q: UM offers “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.” What does that mean for student-athletes?
A: It means that not only are they receiving a quality education with a very good professor/student ratio of 1 to 13, but when they graduate, they are prepared to not just start a career and make a living, they also have a faith-based perspective to share with others as they make their way through life.