Jun 20

Devoted Fan Dies at U.S. Open

Golf Fan Marshall “Chick” Jacobs Lost His Wife of 68 Years Three Days Before Erin Hills

With all the excitement of two tournaments going down to the wire with the PGA and LPGA last week, a reminder surfaced that not all of importance is written on the leaderboard or in the stats column. Seven years ago, the year in which Erin Hills procured the 2017 U.S. Open, Marshall “Chick” Jacobs made an excited commitment to attend, and expressed a hope that he would still be alive by that tiime. Jacobs did live to see the tournament of his dreams, but lost the person who seemed to an outside observer to represent his soul mate. Lucille Jacobs passed away in the week leading up to the tournament. He was 94, and she was 88. The couple had been married for well over half a century, and I can’t help but feel that it’s very difficult to guess at the depth of such a relationship unless you’ve been in one. In terms of the tournament, Marshall Jacobs might be described by some as “just a fan,” but that characterization suddenly seems woefully inadequate.

By all accounts, Marshall Jacobs loved the game of golf, and the person he loved playing with gave that passion a quality that goes far past the act of hitting a ball and marking a card. The couple traveled frequently, and played together in couples’ leagues, “together” appearing to be the most important word. In all likelihood, Marshall Jacobs didn’t break par much. He wasn’t the one hitting the amazing drives, rolling in 70 foot putts, and going on birdie binges – after all, he was “just a fan.”

On Sunday’s round, Marshall Jacobs passed awaty in the arms of his son Bill, near the 6th green, after “three hours of bliss.” I don’t know how much his passing was noticed at the time, but when a relationship runs deep and long, one often can’t or doesn’t want to stick around without the other. The industry surrounding the tournament, built on time schedules, camera placement, and a carefully controlled regimen of ads, couldn’t take much time for such an unexpected event. And, after all, no one at the network knew Marshall Jacobs. In the cut and dried scheme of the tour structure, he attended the Sunday round as “just a fan.”

As for the performers, those competing for big money and fame, few probably noticed. They’re on the clock, after all. Some people who perform in public are extremely sensitive, gracious, and grateful to the people who come to see them. For others, a philosophy predominates that “I am performing, and you’re invited to come and watch me if you behave yourself – but you’re not really my deal.” When I was growing up, those in my family who performed at anything in public were emphatically taught that a person who comes to see you at your work or craft honors you by doing so. We were also reminded that however wonderful what we’re doing might be, any of those people in the audience could take us to their place of work, and teach us something outside of our experience. In that framework, the idea of “just a fan” has flaws.

Marshall “Chick” Jacobs had a lot of top cards in his hand for playing the game of life. He loved his partner of 68 years, and he loved the game of golf, especially when they could play together. He loved the beautiful country that the North American continent offers, all the spectacular places to play, and traveling to experience them with his nearest and dearest. He appreciated what the great players do, and honored them by following their exploits.

If players want to hit rocks with sticks and get together to see who hits them the best,  that’s great – but the tour is played before a devoted public that provides it with life and breath. With the acquired nobility, depth, and reverence that a good life and advanced age can bring, Marshall Jacobs was as important as anyone on the golf course, not “just” a fan. Golf is poorer for the loss of a 68-year story, much of which was lived against the backdrop of the great game..

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