The hurly burly of rugby league could hardly be further removed from the more genteel world of golf, but as a teenager England’s Grant Jackson bridged the gap before deciding to jump headlong into professional golf.
Until the age of 19 Jackson, who led after the first round of the Telenet Trophy on the Challenge Tour, was a promising Academy player for Castleford Tigers, who compete in England’s Engage Super League.
Born and raised in the rugby league heartland of Pontefract, in west Yorkshire, the game was in his blood from an early age. But in his spare time in his mid to late-teens, Jackson began found himself spending an increasing amount of time at his local golf club.
When the Tigers signalled their reluctance to offer him a professional contract, rather than trying to find another club willing to take him on Jackson instead took the difficult decision to quit the game altogether, and focus all his efforts on making a career out of golf.
Having enjoyed some success in the amateur game, in 2006 Jackson made the move into the professional ranks with a handicap of plus two.
After an unsuccessful trip to the Qualifying School in 2007, the following year Jackson headed east to play on the third tier EPD Tour, finishing tenth on the order of merit in his debut season.
Having finished tenth again in 2009, he vowed to work harder than ever last year and got his just rewards with a fourth placed finish which earned him elevation to the Challenge Tour.
After some mixed early season results Jackson is now slowly starting to find his feet on the Challenge Tour, and the 29 year old holds no regrets about hanging up his rugby boots a decade ago.
He said: “Until the age of 19 I’d only really played golf as a second sport, but I thought I could have a longer career if I switched. My best friend Wayne Godwin still plays rugby league now for Salford Reds, and he has to take pain-killing injections every week just to get through matches, which can’t be good for your body. So whilst he’s coming to the end of his career, hopefully mine’s just starting to blossom now.”
Despite no longer being actively involved in rugby league Jackson has retained his ties to the game, and he can be seen in the stands at the PROBIZ Coliseum, Castleford’s home ground, whenever he is not traversing the globe on the Challenge Tour.
He said: “I still follow rugby league because I’ve got a lot of friends in the sport, but at least when I’m in the stands I can’t get hurt up there! I try to watch the games and socialise with my old friends as much as I can, because it gets me away from golf. Obviously I enjoy playing the game, but if I’ve been playing or practising all day I don’t really want to talk about it all night. I’d prefer to switch off and talk about anything but golf, so rugby league is my release from the game. Although a lot of my friends play golf, so that’s all they want to talk about!”
If Jackson continues to make progress through the ranks, he will have to get used to talking about his game a lot more.