‘Up and Down’ the Iowa Golf Scene – Arseneault Finds Fulfillment in Life’s Next Chapter After Competitive Golf
Set goals, work hard to achieve them, and enjoy the ride
Fifteen years ago, Jennie (Arseneault) Jackson’s golf stock was soaring.
During a magical summer of 2006, the then 18-year-old made a strong run at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, reaching the quarterfinals by defeating future LPGA player Tiffany Joh and five-time Solheim Cup participant Carlota Ciganda in the process. Two weeks earlier, she participated in the 61st U.S. Women’s Open Championship won by Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, joining a select group of amateur players who qualified.
Also that summer, Arseneault captured her third consecutive Iowa Women’s Amateur Championship at Des Moines Golf and Country Club by firing a 54-total of 210.
That fall, she headed back to the University of Virginia for her sophomore season. The sky seemed to be the limit for this former prep phenom who had prepared for this moment by attending two of the world’s top golf boarding academies as a teenager and building a national reputation with strong performances in several American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) tournaments.
At the age of 15, she burst onto the junior golf radar by firing a 67 in the first round of the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in Fort Worth, TX. In 2005, she was named to the 12-member United States squad for the PING Junior Solheim Cup led by Morgan Pressel and contested at Bridgewater Club in Indiana, where the US team defeated Europe 16-8. She was named a second-team Rolex Junior All-American that year.
Now as a collegian, Arseneault’s golf achievements kept mounting. She won the prestigious Women’s Western Golf Association Amateur Championship, was the qualifying medalist at the North and South Amateur Championship and finished tied for 34th at the NCAA Women’s Championship, all in 2008. She was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference performer and honorable mention All-American.
Arseneault was on the doorstep of a budding professional golf career. But a back injury that first struck in 2007 and caused her to miss much of that season began to flare again and forced her to re-evaluate what had been a life-long ambition.
“From as far back as I can remember, my ambition was to play professional golf,” Arseneault said during a recent interview in her hometown of Grinnell.
“If I couldn’t make it on the LPGA Tour, then the next best was becoming a golf coach,” she said.
Upon graduation from the University of Virginia, Arseneault found herself at a crossroad. Her recurring back issues were becoming more frequent, and professional developmental playing opportunities for women were limited to the Futures Tour, where making ends meet without sponsorships or other financial backing would prove challenging.
She gave Plan B a try and became an assistant golf coach at the University of Oklahoma and Tulane University. After a few years, Arseneault grew weary of the travel and the compound effect of living and breathing golf for so long.
“Golf was my whole life for so many years,” she said. “I was spending at least six hours a day in my prime, playing, practicing, and working out to become to best player I possibly could be. I began to wonder what life would look like after golf.”
Enter Larry Jackson, a Dallas native and elite athlete in his own right. Jackson, a banking executive, scored 1,539 points during a four-year basketball career at Liberty University to rank among the school’s career scoring leaders. The couple would marry, raise a family, and relocate back to Grinnell. Today Arseneault enjoys her role as Mom to four daughters, Deja, who played Division I basketball at the University of Pennsylvania, Naomi, a third-year student and basketball player at Washington University in St. Louis, and Ava, 9 and Maya, 7 at home in Grinnell.
“I’m a mom first right now,” said Jennie, who works in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at Grinnell College.
In her role as Alumni and Donor Relations Coordinator, she builds engagement and partnership opportunities with alumni athletes and works with the Grinnell College Athletics Hall of Fame.
Her competitive fires burned early, being raised in a family deeply rooted in athletics. Her father, David, was named basketball coach at Grinnell College in 1989, relocating the family from New Hampshire. David Arseneault’s Pioneer teams would attract national attention with its high-octane offense, shattering numerous NCAA Division III scoring records. Her brother, David, Jr., is now the head coach at Grinnell, and once held the national record for assists in a game at 34.
Arseneault was introduced to the game at age five and learned to play by completing hundreds of rounds at the 9-hole Grinnell College Golf Course. By junior high, she was shooting even par, and it became apparent that something special in the making. After her first year of high school, the family made a big decision. She was off to the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, SC, a high-performance golf boarding school that combines golf training with college preparatory academics.
There, she met instructor Hugh Royer III, a well-seasoned golf professional who played ten seasons on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours and won four times on the Korn Ferry Tour. Arseneault credits Royer for advancing her game to national heights. After two years in South Carolina, she received a scholarship to the world-renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL for her prep senior season. Established in 1978, IMG is touted as the world’s largest and most advanced multi-sport training and educational facility that boasts Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Cam Newton, and Jimmy Butler as alumni. In golf, sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda and Paula Creamer are program alumna.
Arseneault stays in touch with the game by serving as an instructor and has helped coach seven central Iowa prep students to earn Division I golf scholarships. She has also volunteered with the Grinnell College women’s golf team. The Jacksons are members of Wakonda Club in Des Moines, and she plays occasionally.
Jennie has the following advice to junior golfers.
“Set goals, work hard to achieve them, and enjoy the ride,” she advised “But keep the big picture in mind as to what life looks like after golf. What are your long-term goals and how can athletics help you get there?”
“Up and Down” the Iowa Golf Scene
A regular feature column written by IGA Foundation board member Mark Gambaiana, Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene is designed to take the reader beyond the headlines and scoreboards to share stories of those who help make Iowa golf so rich and rewarding. Profiles will spotlight those who advance the game through volunteerism, service, extraordinary achievement, competition, human interest and the many other dimensions of golf in Iowa.
Click the links below to read previous Up and Down features
– IGA Rules Official Sean Flanders
– R&A, USGA Champion Gene Elliott
– Nervig Reflects on Decades of Service to The Iowa Masters