Bio of Golfer Tommy Jacobs (PGA Tour 1950s-70s)

Tommy Jacobs was an American professional golfer who played on the PGA Tour from the 1950s into the 1970s on a full-time basis, with occasional later appearances. He won four times in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Jacobs also twice finished second in a major championship, including once after a playoff against Jack Nicklaus at The Masters.

Full name: Keith Thomas Jacobs Jr.

Date of birth: February 13, 1935

Place of birth: Denver, Colorado

Date and place of death: July 9, 2022 in Rancho Santa Fe, California

Jacobs' Biggest Wins

Tommy Jacobs won four tournaments on the PGA Tour:
  • 1958 Denver Open
  • 1962 San Diego Open
  • 1963 Utah Open
  • 1964 Palm Springs Golf Classic
He also won the Southern California PGA Championship three times, in 1971, 1972 and 1976.

In the Majors

Jacobs did not win a major, but he came close: He had two runner-up finishes, one of which was a playoff loss to Jack Nicklaus.

Jacobs' first appearance in a major was at the 1952 Masters, when he was only 17 years old. He set a record at that time as the youngest golfer to play The Masters, a record that stood until 2010. His final appearance in a major was in the 1976 PGA Championship.

In total, Jacobs played in 32 majors, although never in the British Open. He had five Top 10 finishes. The first was a tie for 10th in the 1958 U.S. Open. Then there was a tie for sixth in the 1962 U.S. Open, and a tie for eighth in the 1963 PGA Championship.

And then there were those two runner-up finishes. First came second place in the 1964 U.S. Open. Jacobs was the 36-hole leader after firing a 64 in the second round — a score that, at the time, tied not only the U.S. Open's 18-hole scoring record, but tied the lowest score yet recorded in any of the four majors. Jacobs remained the leader after a 70 in Round 3, with a 2-stroke margin over second-place Ken Venturi. But in the final round, during which he nearly collapsed with heat stroke, Venturi shot 70 and wound up winning by four shots over Jacobs, who had a 76.

Two years later, Jacobs lost in a playoff at the 1966 Masters Tournament. When Jacobs posted a 70 in the third round, he surged into a tie for the lead with Jack Nicklaus. In the final round, Jacobs and Nicklaus both carded 72s, while Gay Brewer had a 70 that resulted in all three of them finishing on 288.

In the 18-hole playoff the following day, Nicklaus won with a 70 while Jacobs shot 72 and Brewer 78. Jacobs stayed with Nicklaus through the front nine, both finishing the ninth hole at 1-under. But Jacobs bogeyed No. 10, then Nicklaus birdied the 11th, and that 2-stroke margin held until the 18th hole.

More About Tommy Jacobs

Tommy Jacobs' family — which included younger brother John Jacobs, who played on the PGA Tour mostly in the 1970s and later won five times on the Champions Tour — moved to California when Tommy was very young. His father became Director of Parks and Recreation for Los Angeles County, which helped Tommy get a job as the overnight waterer at Montebello Golf Course. Barely into his teens, Tommy went to work at 3 a.m. each day. But when the sun rose, he got to hit buckets and buckets of balls on the driving range.

Jacobs' first splash in tournament golf was reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Am at age 15 in 1950. A year later, aged 16, he won the 1951 U.S. Junior Am. In 1952, he added another of the biggest junior titles of the era, the International Jaycee Junior Tournament.

Jacobs' invitation to play in the 1952 Masters was by virtue of reaching the semifinals of the 1951 U.S. Amateur. His run there included beating Ken Venturi in the third round. Jacobs finished 60th in that Masters. But he failed to make an impression in any of his following U.S. Amateur attempts, missing some in the coming years while serving in the U.S. Army.

Out of the army, Jacobs resumed his amateur career. He got into the PGA Tour's Los Angeles Open as an amateur in 1957 and tied for third place. Later that year, Jacobs turned pro.

His first win came in the city of his birth, at the 1958 Denver Open. Jacobs bested runner-up Ernie Vossler by one stroke.

At the 1962 San Diego Open, Jacobs earned win No. 2 in a playoff against Johnny Pott. Jacobs made a birdie on the first playoff hole.

In one way, Jacobs stumbled to victory in the 1963 Utah Open: He bogeyed the 17th hole of the final round, then, on the 18th, double bogeyed. But Jacobs had a big lead before that on the strength of a 62, which was still a rare score at that point in PGA Tour history, in the third round.

The last of Jacobs' four PGA Tour wins was also earned in a playoff. It was over Jimmy Demaret at the 1964 Palm Desert Golf Classic, one year before the tournament was renamed the Bob Hope Desert Classic.

In addition to his two playoff victories in PGA Tour tournaments, Jacobs also lost two playoffs. One was the 1966 Masters. The other was at the 1969 IVB Philadelphia Golf Classic, a four-way, sudden-death playoff won by Dave Hill.

Jacobs' final year as a full-time tour player was 1970, although he continued making sporadic starts for years afterward. According to PGA Tour records, Jacobs, for his career, played in 346 tour events, with 59 total Top 10 finishes. In addition to his four wins, he had seven second-place finishes and four third-place finishes. His first appearance in a PGA Tour event was at that 1952 Masters, and his last at the 1991 Shearson Lehman Brothers Open.

He was in the Top 60 of the money list (then the cutoff to avoid Monday qualifying) 1958 to 1964 plus 1966, with a high finish of 12th in 1964. His second-place finishes, in addition to those already mentioned, were in the 1960 Pebble Beach Pro-Am, 1962 Ontario Open, 1964 Colonial National Invitation and 1964 Memphis Open Invitational. (Jacobs was also runner-up in the 1959 Mexican Open, not a tour event.)

On the strength of his one win and two seconds in 1964, Jacobs was named to Team USA for the 1965 Ryder Cup. Jacobs partnered Don January to victory in two four-ball matches. And he split two singles matches: He beat Dave Thomas, 2 and 1, in the morning session; and lost to Lionel Platts, 1-down, in the afternoon session.

Jacobs was well-known enough, through his handful of wins, his playoff performance against Nicklaus, and his Ryder Cup appearance, to be featured three times on Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. In a 1965 episode, Jacobs played Chi Chi Rodriguez; in 1966, he went against Chen Ching-Po; and in 1967 Jacobs played Bruce Devlin.

Jacobs also played on the Champions Tour, but never won. His first appearance on the senior circuit was in 1985, and his last in 2003. He made 67 starts, but never finished in the Top 10.

In 1971, Jacobs took on the job of Director of Golf at La Costa Resort Hotel and Country Club in Carlsbad, California. It was a position held until 1986. During his tenure, the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions moved to La Costa, and Jacobs served as tournament director.

After leaving La Costa in 1986, Jacobs had stops at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California; Bel Air Greens in Palm Springs, California; and Magnolia Greens in Leland, North Carolina. He helped design the first club, and operated the latter two.

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