A Long, Strange Trip for John Jacobs

For John Jacobs, there was always something more interesting to do than beating balls. He had the talent to win majors yet earned just enough on Tour--$119,776 from 1968-1989--to cover tips and cab fare. Though he was a golfer gone wild in his youth, an older, wiser Jacobs has won five times on the Champions Tour, including the 2003 Senior PGA Championship. At 60, he has no regrets, but plenty of stories.

Jacobs qualified for the 1960 National Junior in Detroit, at 15. While other kids dropped water balloons from hotel windows, he got a fake I.D., checked into a suite, rented a Cadillac, bought a bottle of scotch and picked up a 20-year-old girl.

In 1963, when he was 18, Jacobs enlisted in the army and was eventually shipped off to Vietnam. "I didn't pay attention to current events, unless you count the eighth race at Santa Anita," Jacobs says. "I looked up information that said, 'Saigon: Paris of the Orient,' and I thought, 'Sweet! I'll pick up a tux.'"

After the war, his carefree demeanor made him a fearsome money player. "He was always at his best when he was flat broke," says Jacobs's older brother, Tommy, a four-time Tour winner. A lot of marquee pros who played him for money went home with their pockets turned inside out."

"I was a footloose bachelor looking for a good time," Jacobs says. "As for the women, I don't remember most of them. It's all a blur now. If I'd been going for a record, hell, I would have hired Wilt Chamberlain to be my accountant."

But Jacobs didn't always score. "I remember Robinson, Illinois--population: 6,000. I swear, Errol Flynn could not get laid in Robinson, Illinois, with a two-million-dollar bill."

"I drank malt Scotch back then," Jacobs says. "A lot. I always thought that if I went home, I'd miss something. So some nights I didn't go home. I always showed up for my tee times, but sometimes I'd be handing my sports coat to my caddie on the first tee."

Jacobs crossed paths with some golf-crazed wise guys. He describes a cross-country flight in the 1970s with some reputed mobsters. Amonmg the passengers: Teamsters boss Frank Fitzsimmons, who took over the union after Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance. "I was reading the sports section. And I could hear them talking about people they wanted dead, like [Vegas mob enforcer] Tony Spilotro. I kept that newspaper in front of my face the entire trip." Spilotro was eventually found buried in an Indiana cornfield. He'd been beaten to death.







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