Irish golf in mourning following the sudden death of Hugh Jackson

Hugh Jackson

Gavin Moynihan summed up the sense of shock in Irish golf when news filtered through of the sudden-death at the age of 75 of the great PGA professional Hugh Jackson at the Connemara Pro-Am this morning. 

"Lost a great friend and teacher today!" the Walker Cup star and rookie professional wrote on Twitter of the man who first taught him the game at Donabate. "Can't believe the news! Taught me since I started up till now! Great man and golfer RIP Hugh Jackson."

Geoff Bleakley, Chairman of the PGA in Ireland, paid tribute to his late colleague in an email:

Hugh Jackson was a top class PGA Professional in every aspect of the game. As a player, a PGA Club Professional, as a coach and as a great mentor to many of today's PGA Professionals across Ireland and beyond. The PGA in Ireland have lost one of our best. "Jacko" has left his mark on the game he loved and his legacy will remain with us for a very long time. Rest in Peace Hugh we will miss you. 
Geoff Bleakley
PGA in Ireland

A native of Newtownards, Hugh Jackson was a much-loved and highly respected professional at Donabate Golf Club for 31 years until his retirement four years ago.

A special event was held in his honour in April that year and it was no surprise that fellow professionals Eamon Darcy, Paul Leonard, Bernard Gibbons, Aaron O'Connor and Mick Murphy were just some of the names who took the trouble to pay tribute to one of Irish golf's great gentlemen and competitors.

"Jacko is great," Moynihan said at the end of the 2013 season that brought him Walker Cup honours at the age of just 18.

"He just gives me a few notes and pointers and the start of the year. He had played a lot of the courses, I played this year and told me how to handle them. The big goal this year was walker cup I couldn’t see it happening but I got it." 

Listening to his former pupils, there is a sense that he was as much a mentor as a swing coach as former Irish Ladies Close champion Mary Doyle explained.

"It was my Dad’s idea to go to Hugh Jackson at the start of last year and he’s been wonderful,” Mary explained last year.

“He didn’t do much with my technique but he changed my mental game and my putting and made me more aggressive on my greens. He’s just transformed my game."

Hugh Jackson and Bobby Browne at Laytown and Bettystown earlier this month. Picture courtesy: Richard Walsh. 

The late golfer recently attended a testimonial day for PGA professional Bobby Browne at Laytown and Bettystown and was hugely admired by his peers.

His great claim to fame was finishing eighth to Jack Nicklaus in the 1970 British Open.

He also won the 1968 Piccadilly Medal, numerous Ulster championships and the Irish PGA championship in both matchplay and strokeplay.

"He was one for the good guys," said Des Smyth. "I started on the tour with Hugh. He was playing recently at Bobby Browne's day and at Baltray as well. Now, it's a very sad thing but that he passed away on the golf course, it's a good way to go. 

"He was a terrific guy and a great player and we soldiered together in the early days, he will be sadly missed. It will have given him a lot of pleasure to watch Gavin Moynihan win the Walker Cup recently."

Originally from Newtownards in Co Down, he started out in Balmoral where he was assistant to 1947 Open winner Fred Daly.

Former Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam sent a letter to be read out at his testimonial while another Ryder Cup captain, Tony Jacklin, was also a close friend.

The late Arnold O'Connor spoke on behalf of the PGA at his testimonial day, explaining that Hugh was like a father to all the younger lads when they were starting out, looking after them day and night.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam