Our late OGRO President, John Jacobs OBE, died in January after a long and wonderful life devoted to golf, his family and friends. A service of thanksgiving was held for John at Winchester Cathedral on Monday 22nd May. It was a glorious day in so many ways; over 500 people paid their respects to John in this most magnificent of settings.
John had done so much to define the modern golf swing and to allow everybody easy access to good golf and - perhaps most importantly - to improving golf. His career as a player has often been forgotten, yet he was a multiple tournament winner and a Ryder Cup player, despite limiting himself to very few appearances in tournaments due to his club and coaching commitments.
John spent a large part of his life setting up and encouraging golf at grassroots level with his work at John Jacobs schools and golf centres at Sandown Park, Leopardstown in Dublin, Parklands in Newcastle and the Delapre Golf Centre in Northampton. At these centres he took the game to the masses and made sense of golf centres, teaching hundreds of thousands of people to play. He did this by teaching others to teach in his style. All of these centres are still thriving to this day and continue to be great places to play, practise and start an adventure in golf.
Despite having few formal qualifications, the PGA turned to John to sort out the issues they had with tournament players and PGA club members having different agendas. The truth was that both factions were bitterly divided, and it was only John who could bridge the gap between the two. In the early 1970s John was given the task of running the Tournament Division of the PGA, which, with the help of many in attendance at the service, he turned it into the PGA European Tour that we know today. Ken Schofield, George O’Grady and Keith Pelley, the current incumbent, had big boots to fill as they took over the work that John had started.
John and his late wife Rita and the family had worshipped at Romsey Abbey, but it quickly became obvious in the planning of the memorial service that a larger venue was required, and Winchester Cathedral proved a perfect choice. Canons Tim Sledge and John Reynolds, both good friends of John, oversaw the service and prayers, and there was beautiful singing from the choristers and choir.
Personal tributes were paid by Peter Alliss, John O’Leary and Butch Harmon followed by Barrie Ashworth, Ewen Murray and Ken Schofield, along with a video tribute which included moving comments from some of golf’s great figures including Jack Nicklaus and José Marie Olazabal.
His daughter Jo played the most delightful piano rendition of Danny Boy, one of John’s favourites, and his son Jon made a moving personal tribute to his dad.
After the ceremony, refreshments were served in a large marquee to the side of the Cathedral. The whole event was beautifully arranged and the Jacobs family was very grateful to the European Tour for all of the help they had received in making this such a wonderful event to remember John by.