The world of golf lost an icon and legend this week as John Jacobs OBE, one of the world’s most recognised and revered PGA Professionals, passed away at the age of 91.
Jacob’s influence on the sport was widespread across his native United Kingdom, but also across the whole of Europe, particularly in the advancement of the education programmes that PGA Professionals undertake in their own countries.
Initially playing and teaching as a PGA Professional, Jacobs retired from competitive golf in the early 60s, turning his focus squarely towards the technicalities and intricacies of the swing and technique. His coaching prowess earned him the nickname ‘Dr. Golf’, and it was not long before he was viewed as a modern-day icon of golf coaching.
This high level of expertise and, perhaps more importantly, vision as to how the profession could evolve, made him world-renowned and a key figure in the development of a formalised training manual for the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland.
Many of the principles he instilled in those manuals still exist today and formed the blueprints of each and every PGA’s professional training programme. His involvement with the PGAs of Europe and his work in various continental European countries helped spread this ethos and expertise to wider climes such as France, Belgium, and in particular Spain where he shared his technical knowledge and worked with the likes of Jose Maria Olazabal.
This international and forward-thinking approach ultimately means that Jacobs has positively impacted upon the development of every single PGA Professional in the past 40-50 years across the PGAs of Europe’s Member Country PGAs and more.
“It was always about teaching people; it was always about the flight of the ball; it was always about realising that the only function of the golf swing is to deliver the club head…”
PGAs of Europe Chairman, Sandy Jones, added: “John’s role in the development of golf across continental Europe cannot be understated. He was a natural choice to follow Christer Lindberg as our second Honorary President in 1999-2000, recognising his position as a key figurehead of not only professional golf but also golf as a whole through the huge number of coaches he has influenced.
“Jacobs’ legacy will live on in the PGAs of Europe history books as each year a PGA Professional who, like Jacobs, has excelled as a coach of any level of golfer is recognised by the Association with ‘The John Jacobs Award for Teaching & Coaching’ – the highest European coaching accolade for a PGA Professional.”
Previous winners of the Award have included Michael Bannon, Dominique Larretche, Lee Scarbrow, Salvador Luna and Neil Manchip, showing the high calibre of PGA Professionals that have been acknowledged in his name. The award will continue in Jacobs’ name as a marker of his enduring legacy in coaching and sport of golf.
Jacobs took up the role of ‘Tournament Director-General’ of the PGA of Great Britain & Ireland on the 1st October 1971, effectively marking the birth of the PGA European Tour. With a small team and a big task ahead of him, Jacobs established the inclusion of prize money and points from European events within the overall tournament Order of Merit and very quickly began to build a schedule that has ultimately grown to be a global heavyweight of Professional golf.
This involvement with the tournament side of golf that included two spells as Ryder Cup Captain in 1979 and 1981 when the first continental European players competed, along with the creation of international competitive opportunities for professional golfers, has resulted in the exposure and subsequent development of golf in countries where otherwise it may never have ventured.
Board Director of the PGAs of Europe and Jacobs’ successor at the European Tour, Ken Schofield, describes Jacobs as “…Quite simply, a great man – a giant in the game of golf. Champion player – Ryder Cup international in his own right – but will be defined as one of THE great sport coaches of our time – through his teaching of the game at all levels and in all corners of the globe. We will miss him – but his indelible link will remain large.”
“It would be perfectly valid to compile a list of the Five Most Influential People Behind the Rise of European Golf, but in practice it would be no fun. It would have to read: (1) John Jacobs, (2) John Jacobs, (3) John Jacobs, (4) John Jacobs, (5) John Jacobs.”
Peter Dobereiner, Golf Digest 1994