Palmer Jackson named Tribune-Review Westmoreland Boys Athlete of the Year

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Saturday, June 29, 2019 | 6:49 PM


Franklin Regional senior Palmer Jackson has played some of the top golf courses across the United States.

The list includes Oakmont Country Club, Baltusrol, Pebble Beach and Valhalla, and that was in 2018.

But one course he never has played could be the best in Western Pennsylvania: Laurel Valley in Ligonier.

“I’d love to play that course,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, someday, I’ll get that chance.”

The way Jackson plays golf, there is a good chance that day will come.

Jackson, who is named after the late Arnold Palmer, is the 2018-19 Tribune-Review Westmoreland Boys Athlete of the Year.

He beat out strong challenges from seniors Dom DeLuca of Derry, Jarett Bach of Yough and Cam Binda of Greensburg Salem.

Jackson won the PIAA Class AAA golf title — his first — and also was an outstanding pitcher for the Franklin Regional baseball team, which won a section title and a game in the PIAA Class 5A playoffs.

A labrum injury in his right shoulder ended his baseball season prior to the playoffs.

Jackson will continue his golf career at Notre Dame.

Jackson, talk about your senior season.

It couldn’t have ended any better golf-wise. I won the state championship. I hoped the golf team would have finished a little better, but I‘ve been to the state finals four times and I wanted to get it done. Baseball, the team was really good, probably one of the best in the state. I got hurt, and I had to be really careful with my arm. I tore my labrum and had to shut it down, which probably hurt the team a little bit, but the pitching staff was good.

As you look back to your senior season, does anything else stand out?

Winning the section in baseball was cool. We wanted to win the WPIAL, but first section in a dozen years is awesome.

Why did you pick Notre Dame, and what were some of the others you considered?

I really liked Stanford and Duke, but I really liked the coach at Notre Dame. I liked the facilities, and they travel south a lot, which is good.

At Notre Dame, I think I can play right away, make a difference and be one of the better guys that’s ever been through there.

When did you start playing golf?

I started when I was 1 or 2, something like that. My first tournament ever, I was 5 and I shot 37 for 9 at Butler’s Golf Course, which was pretty good.

What’s it mean to be named after legendary golfer Arnold Palmer?

I’m, obviously, named after Arnold Palmer. It’s really cool to be named after him.

He was such a great guy, great golfer and all-around great person. I never got to meet him, but my dad was a standard at Laurel Valley Golf Club when I was 1, and he got a bunch of autograph stuff, so I have a lot of memories around my house.

Did anyone in your family influence you to play golf?

My dad (Doug) played a little bit. We really don’t have much history of golf. My dad was OK. He could hold his own weight. He gave me a set of clubs, and I loved it. Maybe it’s because of my name. Being named Palmer drives me a little bit. I love golf.

What courses did you grow up on?

Murrysville is where I got started. That transitioned into Meadowink. Then Meadowink transitioned into Hannastown Golf Club. We’ll see where we go from here.

In 2018, your season took you to some of the top golf courses in the country. How sweet was that, and what memories can you take from that?

It was really cool. I was very fortunate to play in those events, those courses. Probably Pebble Beach was really cool. Seeing the pros and being able to compare to what I did and to what they’re doing. Getting a ball stuck in a tree on No. 18 were all great memories and having my family there. This year, I’m hoping for more of the same. We’ll see where the season leads me.

You play in the WPGA Amateur at Oakmont on Monday. You played in the WPIAL championship last fall. How will that experience help you?

At the WPIAL, I had a great chance to win. I had one bad drive, and it cost me. I know if No. 10 is playing downwind, I’m not hitting drive because the fescue is in play. Really, being precise and committing to your shots and making sure you miss in the right spots.

How did you fall in love with baseball?

I was really never overpowering. I threw kind of hard, but my dad pushed me to be a good pitcher. His saying was ‘you’re not going to play golf if you don’t play baseball.’ I loved baseball. Fortunately, I was pretty good. I had success this year and had a great team around me. I’m going to miss baseball a lot. It’s something I looked forward to every time I pitched. It stinks I can’t play baseball anymore, but golf is front and center now.

What do you do when you want to get away from golf or baseball?

I go fishing a lot, and I like to swim a lot. My favorite fishing holes is a pond at Hannastown and a stream near Sloan Elementary in Murrysville. I read books about golf.

Favorite golf courses that you’ve played?

I really like Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill in California. Those were two of my favorites. I got to play Rich Harvest Farms two weeks ago, and that’s one of the most unique courses I’ve ever played.

If there was one person, dead or alive, that you’d like to sit down and have dinner with, whom would be it be?

Arnold Palmer, no doubt. Find out who he was, figure out who the man really was because I never got to meet him. I’ve read some books about him but never got to talk to him. People say I honor his name really well, and that’s something I take pride in.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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