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Jean-Etienne Lafitte: 1948 – 20154 min read

Posted on: 13th May 2015

Former PGAs of Europe Honorary President, Education Committee Chairman and Chairman of the PGA of France, Jean-Etienne Lafitte, sadly passed away on the 9th May after a long illness.

Jean-Etienne was a figurehead at the forefront of professional education for PGA Professionals and a key driver in the creation and development of the PGAs of Europe.

His work with the Association, the PGA of France and the Fédération Française de Golf (FFGolf) has impacted upon almost every PGA Professional that has gone through a training programme across Europe.  He was recognised many times for his influence on golf in Europe, including most recently Special Recognition by the FFGolf as a Master in his field.

“On behalf of all PGAs of Europe Officials and Staff, both past and present, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Jean-Etienne’s family and friends for the loss of such a fantastic person,” said PGAs of Europe Chief Executive, Ian Randell.

“Jean-Etienne was not only hugely influential in the development of our Association, but also in many of us as individuals.  Not least of all the tens of thousands of PGA Professionals across Europe and the wider world that have been influenced by his vision and efforts in developing professional education.  His energetic personality and enthusiasm will be sorely missed by all.”


PGAs of Europe Chairman, Sandy Jones, added: “Jean-Etienne was without doubt one of the nicest people I have ever met.  His passion for the PGAs of Europe was never-ending and he had the vision and the drive to establish the foundation stones of our education across Europe that have brought us to the successful position we now enjoy.  We should all be indebted to him for his outstanding contribution and wonderful vision.”

Jean-Etienne was a stalwart figure in the PGAs of Europe across its entire history having attended the exploratory meeting of several PGAs at Wentworth in 1989 and was heavily involved in the official formation the following year.

1990 also saw Jean-Etienne chair the very first Training Standards Committee meeting, which later became the Education Committee (EC).  His vision and leadership of the Committee established a recognised European Standard for professional qualification that was accepted by all member countries.


In 2003, Jean-Etienne retired from his position as EC Chairman handing over the reigns to Leif Ohlsson, who then later passed the leadership to its current Chairman, Jonathan Mannie.  Jean-Etienne was recognised by the Association with the Christer Lindberg Bowl award that was later bolstered by the 5 Star Professional Award in 2008.

In 2010 he succeeded Heinz Fehring as Honorary President at the 2010 Annual Congress and later handed over to Donato Di Ponziano in 2012.

He also acted as a Golf Development Consultant for the PGAs of Europe working on behalf of The R&A carrying out various missions in many countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Current Chairman of the EC, Jonathan Mannie, said: “One very special person for me during my time with the PGAs of Europe has been Jean-Etienne Lafitte.  I remember at the Annual Congress many years ago I had the privilege of sitting next to him.  Halfway through he gave me a little note – he had written ‘It is tremendous to see your enthusiasm and your concentration’.  That was really special coming from somebody like him.”

Jean-Etienne’s influence outside of the PGAs of Europe cannot be overstated – his involvement with French golf started long before.  He became the PGA of France’s Chairman in 1981 and was French National Team Coach from 1983 to 1992, where he led the junior national team to a European Championship title in 1988, his last year as the PGA’s Chair.  He was National Technical Director until 1997 during which time he helped to establish the first Federal School for golf coaches.


“As a passionate and erudite golfer, master teacher and friend, Jean-Etienne was outstanding,” said current PGAs of Europe Honorary President, Pierre Bechmann.  “He only had the interest of the game of golf at heart. He wanted all golfers to live up to the game’s principles and traditions.  He saw how golf could help individuals to be better people. He has given a great deal to golf and will be remembered for his exceptional and enthusiastic contribution to the game.”

A funeral service for Jean-Etienne will take place on Friday 15th May at 10:30am at the Saint Jean-Baptiste Church in St Jean de Luz, near Biarritz, France.

Please feel free to leave messages of condolence in the comments section below.

  • On behalf of Donato Di Ponziano:

    Jean Etienne Lafitte etait un homme qui a certainement donne plus au golf français qui’l n’a reçu.
    Il a fait l’histoire de l’enseignement du golf moderne en France et à travers son engagement, une génération excellente et motivée de ‘ teaching pros ‘ qui ont été en mesure de croître et de créer de bons joueurs. Les résultats d’aujourd’hui sont toujours le résultat d’un travail passé . Jean Etienne y etait devoue corps et âme .
    Il était habitué à travailler derrière la scène, mais son grand professionalisme et son humanité l’ont amené à être reconnu de tous dans le monde du golf .
    Je suis tres honore d’avoir eu son amitié et d’avoir pu travailler avec lui dans la PGA’ of EUROPE durant plus de 20 ans. Je ne pourrai jamais oublier son attitude constructive et sa grande capacité de donner sans rien demander en retour. Ses nombreux amis à travers le monde, le golf européen ainsi que le golf Français ont perdu un grand homme exceptionnel et mémorable.
    Repose en paix Jean Etienne tu nous laisseras tellement de belle choses et de bons souvenirs. Ton ami dévoué.

  • Tony Bennett

    It was my honour to have known and learned from Jean-Etienne. I have a debt of gratitude to pay for his good grace when I was still wet behind the ears, for his vision of professional education across Europe, and for inviting me to join the PGAs of Europe Education Committee. Had he not invited me all those years ago perhaps my involvement with The PGAs of Europe would have been very different. During the many meetings and times that I shared with Jean-Etienne he rarely wavered in his belief that together we could achieve more and his commitment to the united vision was total.

  • George Diakou

    It is so sad that one of the legends in the Golf field, the late Jean – Étienne Lafitte passed away.Extremely sad for all of us in the Greek PGA who worked with him in the past for various issueson education and restructuring. He was so open minded and supportive. On behalf of all the Greek PGA Members our deep condolences to his family and friends.

    We will never forget his contribution to the improvement of our Association.

    George Diakou
    President Greek PGA

  • Lawrie Thornton

    Jean Etienne Lafitte was in every respect a very special
    man. He first came into a meeting of the fledgling PGAs of Europe at St Andrews
    during the 1990 Open Championship and his passionate presentation left us all
    in no doubt that our future in Europe would only be successful by cooperation
    and integration.

    There were great differences between the educational requirements
    and qualifications for a ‘club’ golf professional throughout the various PGA’s
    over the continent of Europe, and the only way forward under the EU laws of
    free movement of labour would be to establish a common standard that would be
    universally acceptable. JEL headed the working group that over three years
    reviewed all of the programmes and ultimately established the standards that
    all are judged by today.

    When advisers were needed by the R&A for worldwide golf
    development programmes, JEL successfully answered the call for work in Uruguay,
    Tunisia & Morocco. His domestic role continued within the French Golf Federation
    and the European Tour successes of French national players today owe much to
    the coaching regimes that he created.

    Over my
    fifteen years of regular meetings with him, I appreciated the benefit of his
    knowledge and commitment towards achieving those initial objectives and greatly
    enjoyed his quiet sense of humour.

    His contribution to the status and the recognition that the
    PGA’s of Europe has today was greater than any other individual. He was a very
    special man.

    RIP JEL.