In typical overachiever fashion, Wilton resident Gregory Jacobson has a few names. His mother is the only one who called him ‘Gregory.’ His father, siblings and wife, Alison, call him ‘Greg.’ His children, Emma and Wyatt Jacobson, call him ‘Dad,’ while Alison’s children–Hannah, Kelsey and Spencer Rhodes–have nicknamed him ‘Steppy.’ But “the remainder of the planet,” as he says, calls him ‘Jake.’
“It’s quite a confusing burden,” Jake admits, tongue firmly planted in cheek.
A stand-out hockey player at a young age, Jake was recruited to attend and play for Milton Academy for high school. So too did Williams College seek him out, to play golf as well, and he enjoyed a stellar collegiate career in both sports. In 1979, he was invited to try out for the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team. But golf was his true passion, and he instead chose to commit to a busy golf schedule during the try out window. It paid off: in 1981, Jake was named NCAA All-American.
Shortly after his 1982 college graduation, Jake earned a spot as a professional tour player on the Space Coast Pro Golf Tour (one of the finest mini tours in the country). While continuing to hone his golf game, Jake helped others, such as Don Shula, do the same while working as a teaching pro at Indian Creek Country Club, “one of golf’s most unique spots in America,” according to Golftripper.com.
For more than 20 years, Jake was a self-described golf fanatic who was racking up the accolades. Playing frequently with the likes of Payne Stewart (winner of 11 PGA tour events), Jake was New England Amateur Runner-up to Brad Faxon (eight-time winner on the PGA Tour), he competed in many U.S. Amateur and State Amateur tournaments, won numerous Ridgefield Golf Club championships, and at one time held three different course records around the country.
And when asked what he calls the “inevitable question” about hole in ones. Jake has four; Royal St. George’s, located in Sandwich, Kent, England, and one of the courses on The Open Championship rotation is the site of that incredible achievement.
Jake’s golf career came to an abrupt halt in 2011 and life as he knew it changed dramatically, when he was diagnosed with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), one of four disease courses identified in multiple sclerosis (MS). MS interferes with your brain’s ability to operate the body, which can be disabling; PPMS is characterized by deteriorating neurologic function without relapses or remissions.
“That was a tough day,” Jake recalls. “Alison and I were newly married and we had just returned home from our blended ‘family moon.’ Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t have many treatments, but it is becoming a priority.”
And, as Tom Hanks infamously said in A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in baseball.”
It’s a line that goes through Jake’s head all the time and perhaps is the reason that despite – or perhaps, because of – the shift in his life’s journey, one thing hasn’t changed. Jake continues to add to that list of impressive accomplishments.
Shortly after his diagnosis, Jake started Accessible Home Living, a Wilton-based company that specializes in renovating houses for handicap accessibility.
“Our mission was to modify homes so that people could stay in their own homes,” Jake explains. “Given my diagnosis, I felt I had great perspective on what people needed and what they might need in the future in order to stay put. Whether it was identifying a potential hazard like removing throw rugs, or putting on an addition to accommodate family members returning to serve as a caretaker, our company took a very holistic approach towards what might be needed to keep people in their own home.”
Next up was The Jake, an annual golf fundraiser to benefit MS families and the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter. Launched in 2013 with Jake at the helm, the tournament raised over $100,000 in just five years. It’s an effort in which Jake takes great pride.
And today, thanks to the Paramobile, an adaptive golf cart that can also be customized for use in other sports such as fishing or archery, Jake is back to teaching on the golf course. Through the Stand Up and Play Foundation – where he’s a board member – he’s back to sharing his love of the sport, this time with adults who have intellectual and physical disabilities, stroke victims, veterans, and children with physical disabilities. It’s what he’s most proud of today.
Two weeks ago, Jake was demonstrating the Paramobile at the Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains. “Being a part of someone standing up and being free to swing a club and hit a golf ball, it’s beyond exciting. I love being a part of it, being in the company of these people is what it’s all about,” Jake says.
Recently named by Wilton Magazine to the Wilton 25 of 2018, Jake was completely surprised by, and appreciative of the honor. “What I do now is so much better than what I used to do when I could walk on two legs,” he reveals. “I have such a greater appreciation of everything, likely because everything is slower and each day I’m figuring out other ways to do the simplest things….there’s no rat race and doing the simple tasks gives me a great sense of accomplishment.”
“I never would get to experience what I do today if I wasn’t disabled and wheelchair bound. The great good of people comes out when they are in front of me. People are warmer, people show me a depth that I never before experienced. I have to reciprocate and that’s what I do.”
Jake’s upcoming speaking engagements include “Golf Therapy for the Body and Soul,” on Friday, June 8th at the 2nd Annual Putnam Service Dogs Golf Fundraiser at Centennial Golf Club in Carmel NY and again on July 25th at the Friedland Family Multiple Sclerosis Golf Fundraiser at Oxford Greens Golf Club, Oxford CT. He will also be demonstrating golf from a Paramobile at both events. For more information on any of these events for questions about the Paramobile, please contact Jake via email.