Golf guru John Jacobs dies, aged 91

John Jacobs in his playing days
John Jacobs in his playing days
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John Jacobs, the man hailed as the “father of modern day golf”, has died at the age of 91.

The Englishman was an accomplished player, competing in the 1955 Ryder Cup and recording two professional wins, including the Dutch Open in 1957.

He was also a two-time Ryder Cup captain, including the 1979 contest, when European players competed for the very first time.

It was a coach, however, that Jacobs had the biggest impact on the sport, working with some of the game’s top players as well as helping humble beginners.

He wrote the PGA’s first training manual and decades later his principles are still at the core of every professional’s education.

For more than 20 years he was also the driving force behind the development of the European Tour, fighting to expand the season of events beyond Britain.

Jacobs was also the visionary behind the growth of driving ranges, realising their value for both professionals and students who wanted learn and improve day or night, all year round.

“Golf can be an expensive sport,” he reasoned. “Golf ranges were an inexpensive way to get more people playing the game and enjoying it.”

Scot Sandy Jones, the PGA’s chief executive, paid tribute to Jacobs, a man he’d known for a long time.

“John Jacobs will be fondly remembered by those of us who were privileged to know him,” he said.

“Quite simply he was a legend of the game and his name will sit at the top table with all the golfing greats.”

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie described Jacobs as “gentleman” and added: “I met him a few times and he was always ahead of his time.”

Bernard Gallacher was a rising star in the Lothians when he first saw Jacobs at work on the range at Dalmahoy.

“John got an enormous amount of pleasure helping people hit the ball better,” said the three-time Ryder Cup captain.

“And it didn’t matter whether you were a professional or a high handicapper – he always had time.

I remember seeing him and thinking he had no time to practice himself, because he was too busy giving lessons. All the pros wanted him to look at their swings.

“It was funny, really. I would drive an hour to see him, we would be on the practice ground for a few minutes and I would drive an hour home, swing working again. That’s all he needed – a few minutes.”

Chief executive Martin Slumbers paid tribute on behalf of the R&A, saying: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of John Jacobs and our heartfelt condolences are extended to his family.

“John’s outstanding contribution to golf over a lifetime will leave an indelible mark on the game.

“He was widely respected as a founding father of the European Tour and was a proud Honorary Member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

“John was a tremendously engaging character and the world of golf has lost a leading light today.”