Nov. 21, 2019 – Randy Jensen, a co-founder of the Society of Hickory Golfers, hickory golf champion, and golf club expert, was named the 2019 Mike Brown Award recipient at the Mid Pines Hickory Open. Though Jensen could not be present, his good friend, Rob Ahlschwede, accepted the award on his behalf.
“I am very honored to be included in this group of early hickory golf pioneers, good friends all, to receive the Mike Brown Award,” Jensen said from his home in Omaha, Neb. “I personally knew Mike very well and had traveled to his home in Indianapolis to view his Ben Hogan collection. I know Mike would be thrilled to have his name associated with this award that has been presented to so many hickory golfers that Mike knew so well.”
Mike Brown at dinner with friends in Grand Rapids, Mich. (2007 or 08)
Mike Brown was an avid hickory golfer who died suddenly in February 2010 in his hometown of Indianapolis. At the time of his passing, he was serving on the SoHG Board, on the SoHG Executive Committee, and was chairman of the Equipment Standards Committee. He worked tirelessly to promote hickory golf and was constantly bringing new people into the hickory playing community. Once you met Mike, you gained a friend for life. He was exceedingly knowledgeable about the history of hickory golf and was a strong voice in maintaining the ancient traditions of the game.
The award is presented annually to a hickory player who shares Mike’s:
• Respect for the traditions of hickory golf;
• Dedication to growing the game of hickory golf; and
• Passion for promoting lasting friendships through hickory golf.
The physical award is Mike’s favorite Tom Stewart mongrel mashie, which is housed in a case on permanent display at the Mid Pines Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. Names of annual awardees are engraved on a plaque that appears with the club. (See photo below.)
Jensen, who was reared in Omaha along with three brothers, studied at Creighton Preparatory School and then took up psychology, sports, and film at Creighton University in Omaha.
In fact, the future golf champion had earlier designs on becoming a filmmaker.
“I loved Federico Fellini (early 20th century Italian filmmaker), Stanley Kubrick, and Charlie Chaplin,” he says. “I had a strong attraction to their work.”
A love of sports, however, nudged out the desire to create films.
“My dad was an auto mechanic and he did not care much for sports; he thought it a waste of time,” Jensen says. “But I loved watching sports on TV. I was a New York Yankees fan and Mickey Mantle was my favorite player. I really got hooked on it, but later, when I was 13 or 14, I transitioned to golf. I recall watching Arnold Palmer and thinking his swing was just like hitting a low fastball.”
Jensen says he remembers at a young age thinking he could play excellent golf – before even trying it. In his teens, he embraced the sport because he realized he did not have to depend upon anyone else for his performance. It was all up to him.
“I could practice as much as I wanted without having to find somebody to pitch (a baseball) to me,” he says. “In golf, it was the lowest score that wins. No judgment call, just you and the course, nobody else deciding whether you play or not.”
He would play all four years on the Creighton University (Omaha) golf team. After graduation, he pursued film making for a while before deciding to open a golf shop. He would operate Classic Golf in Omaha for the next 25 years, buying and selling clubs, repairing them and eventually getting into hickory golf through an acquaintance with such early Golf Collector Society members as Tad Moore, Bob Farino, and Bobby Grace.
Jensen met Farino in the mid-1980s at a PGA merchandise show. The two shared an interest in golf collectibles and 1940s-50s classic clubs. At another such show, Jensen was introduced to Tad Moore with whom he could talk about technical aspects of golf clubs and clubmaking.
Then, in 1994, at a GCS show in Ypsilanti, Mich., Jensen found himself in the final threesome of a long-drive contest with Micah Boseman of Chicago and Ralph Livingston III. “Here was this really skinny guy [Livingston] who was so enthusiastic about golf collecting and hickory clubs. He really cracked me up, but that enthusiasm was infectious.”
With Livingston, Jensen began to explore hickory clubs in depth, especially those made by Tom Stewart; then it was trying out hickory golf tournaments; then it became going to Scotland to visit links courses and explore tournaments being held there.
“At one point, he [Livingston] says, ‘There’s this guy, Pete Georgiady, and he’s starting up a gutty ball event at the Oakhurst Links in West Virginia. We gotta go to this!’,” Jensen says. “So, I say, great Ralph, let’s go. And I find out about this great tournament using pre-1900 equipment and replicas of old balls. That was fantastic.”
But it was not just the NHC that drew Jensen as a competitor. For a while during the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s, he was winning darn near everything he attended.
Jensen attended the first 15 National Hickory Championships, winning the title a record eight times.
Other hickory golf titles include:
Seven GCS National Championships
One Canadian Hickory Championship
Two Scottish Hickory Championships
19 Heart of America Hickory Championships
Three Southern 4-Ball titles (with Rob Ahlschwede)
Four GCS Region 4 Championships
He was a runner up to Jay Harris in the first U.S. Hickory Open at Mimosa Hills in 2008. He has also competed on five Hickory Grail teams (a fixture of the British Golf Collectors Society) and has won countless other events at various regional hickory golf outings across the U.S.
Before he took up hickory golf full-time, Jensen won the Omaha World-Herald Publinks Tournament in 1989, 1993, and 1995.
He was called the “Tiger Woods of Hickory Golf,” by writer Jonathan Dee in a March 2005 article for a national publication.
In 2008 he published Playing Hickory Golf, which has become a staple of information on the wood shaft golf game, with detailed information on choosing, maintaining, and playing original wood shaft golf clubs.
Randy Jensen during “The Great Match” replay of 2012.
In his years of hickory golfing, Jensen has played in Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, France, and Canada. He was a participant in The Great Match, an October 2012 re-enactment of matches between Willie Park and Tom Morris. Arranged by the late Lionel Freedman, the match featured European professional and hickory champion Perry Sommers, originally of Australia, as Jensen’s opponent.
Jensen has been quiet on the national hickory golf scene these past half-dozen years, and sold his Omaha-based Classics of Golf shop in 2012 to Tony Tubrick. His attention of late has been on deciphering a variety of Napoleonic riddles associated with a rare and usual piece of jewelry from that period.
“I am also still actively involved in hickory golf club restoration, especially restoring vintage clubs for play,” he says. “And, once in a while, I get out to play some hickory golf, although it seems to take me a few more shots than it used to!”
Jensen enjoys getting out with friends at local and Midwest regional hickory events. “I’m still in pretty good health and if I really think about it and want to get back out, I’m sure I could practice more and compete in more events,” he says.
“Of course, my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska is hosting the 2020 U.S. Hickory Open thanks in large part to the organizational efforts of Dr. Kevin Cawley. And I am part of a very talented team of individuals who are dedicated to making this 2020 U.S. Hickory Open an event to remember!”
Jensen and his wife, Angie, were married in 2014 and make their home in Omaha.