Joel Jacobs is quarterbacking a new team in Mullen, this one in golf.
Now the owner of an Omaha investment advisory firm, Jacobs is among seven investors who bought Dismal River Golf Club this month. It’s the third time the private club near his hometown has been sold since 2006.
Jacobs, 36, was the starting quarterback for the Mullen Broncos in 1998 when they won the Eight Man-1 state championship in Memorial Stadium, was an all-state basketball player, made all-conference three times as a tight end at UNK and got looks in the NFL with St. Louis and New England before playing in NFL Europe.
His parents are ranchers whose land is along the 17-mile drive from Nebraska 97 to the 36-hole complex southwest of Mullen in Hooker County.
“I’ve always known what the place can be and should be,” Jacobs said. “We’ll build on what’s there and make it special. There’s never been any money spent on marketing and awareness. We’ll do that and bring life and energy to the place.”
Through the years, Jacobs says, more than $40 million has been spent on Dismal River Club. The first owners, from Denver, hired Jack Nicklaus to design an 18-hole course. The second owners were Lincoln-based and the third group, put together by father and son Richard and Chris Johnston of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, included Nicklaus and former LPGA Commissioner Charlie Meacham.
They hired Tom Doak to design the club’s second course and had Nicklaus soften some areas of his course, which has improved its playability and image.
With his ties to the region, Jacobs said he was interested in owning Dismal River even before it went on the market about a year ago. He got serious this past fall.
“Chris (Johnston) is a good guy and we were rapping back and forth if it was a good fit,” Jacobs said. “The place is a turnkey operation. Everything is there. Just a few small tweaks and marketing to bring awareness to an incredible place.”
Dismal River is one of three nationally known golf destinations along Nebraska 97 in Hooker and Cherry Counties. Sand Hills Golf Club, the first built and the most acclaimed, is members-only and never has needed marketing. The Prairie Club, not far — in Sandhills terms — from Valentine, opened after Dismal River. It has a unique concept for its two courses — it rotates course availability daily between guests and members — and has made its pitch in national golf and tourism magazines.
Jacobs wants to strengthen Dismal River’s relationships with the other two clubs. Especially Sand Hills, with which Dismal River got off to a shaky start. His mother, Jodi, worked for Sand Hills in its pro shop. She’ll run the shop at Dismal River.
The new owners want to expand Dismal River’s recreational activities to skeet shooting, mountain biking and hunting tours. They’re working with former NFL defensive back John Howell on the big-game hunting.
“This needs to be something great,” Jacobs said. “All the pieces of the puzzle were there if you put a team together, and I’m a team guy.”
Top 10 again for Sand Hills
Golf Digest’s new biennial list of America’s Greatest Golf Courses returned Sand Hills to its top 10 and included courses at Dismal River and Prairie Club for the first time.
Sand Hills is ninth, after 11th in the previous rankings, matching its high in 2011. Dismal River’s Red, or Doak, Course is No. 131 — the fifth-highest debut. Prairie Club’s Dunes Course, designed by Tom Lehman and Chris Brands, debuts at No. 184. Ballyneal, across the Nebraska state line south of Holyoke, Colorado, is 50th. No Iowa course made the top 200.
Mike Schuchart’s selection as the Nebraska Section PGA Golf Professional of the Year is the first time the honor has gone to the son of a previous recipient.
The director of instruction at Wilderness Ridge in Lincoln and assistant women’s coach at Nebraska is the son of retired Holmes Park pro Bob Schuchart. The younger Schuchart started his pro career working for his father. He also played the PGA Tour in 1990 and 1993 and had a long stay on what is now the Web.com Tour. His honor will be presented March 6 at the Nebraska PGA’s spring meeting at Hillcrest Country Club in Lincoln.
The Nebraska PGA’s other annual awards will go to James Kinney of Golf-TEC in Omaha for teaching and for education, Dawn Neujahr of Champions Run in Omaha for club relations, Jonathan Mielke of Oak Hills in Omaha for youth player development, James Rolls of Indian Creek in Omaha for public-course merchandising, Phil Palmer of Miracle Hill in Omaha for player development, and Don Germer of Players Club in Omaha for private-course merchandising.
Anthony Baranowski of Shadow Ridge in Omaha was the assistant professional of the year, Champions Run the facility of the year and Brian Winge of Omaha the sales representative of the year. Cliff Yohe of College Heights in Crete will receive the Patriot Award.
Players of the year in 2016 were Nick Wanderscheid of Green Valley in Sioux City, Iowa; Jim White of Firethorn in Lincoln for seniors; and Baranowski for apprentices.