Burleigh E. Jacobs Jr., who won the 1939 Wisconsin State Amateur Championship and captained the University of Wisconsin golf team in the early 1940s, died on March 8. He was 99.
Jacobs was born February 3, 1920, and grew up in Wauwatosa, but he spent summers at the family’s home on Lac La Belle, within walking distance of historic Lac La Belle Country Club.
“My grandfather used to go for a walk every morning and he took me along over to the golf course and he said, ‘Why don’t you swing one of these clubs? Maybe you’ll like the game,’” Jacobs said in an interview with Wisconsin.Golf in October 2018. “I did, and my first golf was at La Belle.”
He showed such an aptitude for the game that friends of Burleigh Jacobs Sr., a non-golfer, convinced him to join Westmoor Country Club so that young Burleigh could be tutored by Blackie Nelthorpe, the club’s professional and a noted teacher.
In 1938, two years after finishing runner-up in the State Junior, he reached the championship match of the State Amateur and lost to Lynford Lardner, 3 and 2, at Milwaukee Country Club, Lardner’s home course.
“For the first time, Milwaukee Country Club let people onto the golf course and charged something like 50 cents,” Jacobs said. “It was such a unique situation that a radio station broadcast the final nine holes. The (Milwaukee) Journal said there were 4,000 people there – not to see the golfers, but to see the club.”
Jacobs would get his revenge in 1939, beating Lardner 3 and 1 in the championship match of the State Amateur at Butte des Morts Country Club. That summer, he also reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, Illinois.
At Wisconsin, Jacobs finished runner-up in the Big Ten and scored a match-play victory over Northwestern ace Manuel de la Torre, who would go on to a distinguished playing and teaching career at Milwaukee Country Club.
Jacobs also qualified for the 1942 NCAA Tournament and reached the semifinals, where he lost to University of Mississippi all-American Cary Middlecoff.
After graduating from Wisconsin, Jacobs served in the Navy during World War II and then took a job with Grede Foundries, owned by his father-in-law, William Grede.
He joined Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, but by 1950 he was heading Grede’s steel division and 10 years later he became the company’s president. The demands of his job, along with raising a family, kept him from playing tournament golf other than the annual club championship, which he won six times between 1954 and 1965.
Jacobs was inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame in 1970. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living State Amateur champion and the oldest living president of the American Foundry Society.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at First Congregational Church of Wauwatosa, 1151 Church Street.