Golfing legend John Jacobs, often described as the father of modern day golf, has died at the age of 91.
Jacobs was well known in the North East from the time he launched the John Jacobs Golf Centre – now Parklands – in Gosforth Park in 1967.
He successfully taught many golfers of all levels including Newcastle’s Jenny Lee Smith – now Jenny Lucas – who became an England international, the North East’s first woman professional and the first winner of the Ladies British Open.
Jenny, who now lives in Kent, worked at the Golf Centre early in her career, and she said: “It’s such very sad news. This great man took me under his wing at 16 when I worked with him in Newcastle.
“When I first began working there I was off a 28 handicap. He watched me hit some balls on the range and said to me ‘Young lady one day you will play for England.’ Well, five years later I did play for England. Three years after that I won the First Ladies British Open. He wrote to me after my win at Fulford and said ‘Remember when I told you all those years ago you would play for England, well you have done much better than that with this fantastic win.’
“I shall be for ever grateful to him for his help, support and the fact he was always there to give help when I needed him most. He coached me throughout my golf career, even giving me transatlantic golf lessons on the phone. Having lost my dad at 12, John was like a fantastic father figure to me and I shall be ever thankful for that.”
Alan Hedley had the pleasure of interviewing John more than once and he was a true gentleman, as Chris Robinson, who was general manager of the golf centre from 1967 to 1970, can attest. “John was a true all rounder and the world of golf will be greatly saddened by his passing,” said Chris.
“During John’s tenure the Golf Centre proved particularly popular for target golf competitions and in 1969 staged the country’s first televised tournament.
“As a player, he was no mean performer and in 1957 won the Dutch Open and the South African matchplay championship beating Gary Player 2&1 in the final.”
Jacobs played in the 1955 Ryder Cup and was the obvious choice as captain of the first European teams in 1979 and 1981. From 1971-1975 he was director general of the European Tour – laying the foundations for the success it is today.
All of which is a long way from his early years at Lindrick Golf Club in Yorkshire where his father was the professional and understanding the swing was simply to “stop myself hooking into the gorse on the left.”