One year after his passing, the European Tour has been fondly remembering its founding father, John Jacobs OBE.
Jacobs, also a two-time Ryder Cup captain, will forever be remembered for the huge influence he has had on European golf, as a player, an innovative coach and as a driving force behind the formation of the European Tour.
Ahead of this week's EurAsia Cup in Malaysia, Team Europe Captain Thomas Bjørn recalled the profound impact the Englishman had on so many across the world golf.
A former professional player of note, Jacobs played in The 1955 Ryder Cup in California, and was twice a Ryder Cup captain in 1979 and 1981 – significantly the first two events to feature a continental European Team.
His influence on other players was perhaps even more profound through his revered teaching, with his methods shaping the games of golfers across the globe through his coaching schools, best-selling books, videos and television series.
Jacobs revolutionised coaching, teaching golfer the fundamentals of the game through his innovative philosophies based on ball flight, club face alignment and swing path.
The Yorkshireman also had a considerable impact on the professional game as the founding father of what would later become the European Tour.
The seeds of the Tour were first laid in 1954 when a 29 year old Jacobs led the opening charge in what was set to be a 20-plus year battle to revolutionise the sport’s tournament scene, calling for a modernisation of the distribution and size of prize funds; a new vibrancy to attract sponsors and increase awareness; and, crucially, a tournament scene that expanded far beyond the realms of the British Isles.
It proved a long battle, but on October 1, 1971 he took up the role of ‘Tournament Director-General’ of the PGA Executive Committee that governed the game in Britain at the time. As well as immediately increasing prize money, through a European Committee he established a ‘Continental Swing’, embracing the French, German, and Spanish Opens, with the latter becoming the first official European Tour event at Pals Golf Club in Girona on the 12th April 1972.
Jacobs recalled the formative years of the European Tour in a wonderfully insightful, wide-ranging interview which was serialised on europeantour.com in April 2012 to mark the Tour’s 40th anniversary (click here to read it), with his pride obvious at the Tour’s subsequent development.
His reign as Tournament Director-General may have been short in time - by the start of the 1975 season he had handed the reins to Ken Schofield – but it was not short in achievement, with Jacobs instilling a structure whereby the tournament players and the club professionals ran their own affairs.
Significantly, he put the foundations in place which allowed the Tour to flourish over the next four decades, first under the stewardship of Schofield, then George O’Grady and since August 2015 under Keith Pelley.
“I moved aside because I wanted to get on with my own career but Ken was a natural and I knew the whole business was in safe hands,” he recalled in his 2012 interview. “If you look at where the Tour started when Ken took over and where it was when he left, it is almost unbelievable, and George followed that on by moving things even further forward. Great credit must go to both of them.”
Humility was a trait of Jacobs, but the vision he had paved the way for the modern European Tour. From a starting point of just a handful of tournaments in 1972 and a total prize fund for that season of than £500,000, the European Tour now has nearly 50 tournaments in more than 25 different countries with prize money of nearly €200million – a journey that was started by Jacobs more than half a century ago.
Jacobs’ remarkable contribution to golf was recognised in 1997 when he was made an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours and three years later he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
But his legacy will be the impact he had on golfers of all abilities across the world.
• Read John Jacobs’ full three-part 2012 interview to mark the 40th anniversary of the European Tour.
Founding of the Tour: