Her workplace, behind a guarded gate just minutes from Hollywood and Beverly Hills, is a shrine to opulence and fame with rows of shiny displays of flashy consumerism on display in the parking lot.
It’s worlds away – or at least half a country – from what Mary Jacobs calls her “humble beginning, golf in my garden and then the cornfields” by Godfrey.
Jacobs is not a product of country club golf – “Lockhaven was never in the cards for my family,” she recalls – in a career that made her the Illinois State Champion as a senior with the Marquette Catholic Explorers.
But 18 years after graduating from the Marquette, Jacobs is a professional golfer at the country club at the prestigious Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, which requires a six-figure membership fee and annual dues that could be used to pay for college.
She is a golf instructor in Wilshire and a high school coach at a nearby private girls’ school with tuition fees of $ 44,700 a year. And now Jacobs is the author of a children’s book about golf.
“Golf has given me so much in life, so I gave this book back to the golfing world as my gift,” said Jacobs of her book “One, Two, Follow Through,” which was published June 8th.
Jacobs was not a golfer as a young child, but started playing at the age of 13. But she wants to introduce children to the game with her book, which offers both encouragement and sport.
“I invented ‘One, Two, Follow Through’ while teaching children,” said Jacobs, who will turn 37 on June 29. “But I just didn’t realize how hard golf is. When you start teaching the game you say, oh my god, how am I supposed to teach this person to play golf? I made the phrase up and it was so inspiring to me.
“Everything in life is, either you go through it or you don’t. It’s that simple. Either you commit or you don’t. The ones who really do it are the ones who make it. And those who don’t, don’t. I thought this is such a cool, great, funny, simple, positive, happy message that could be really good for kids. And then I wanted to create role models, so I brought out Polly Pivot as a star. Of course I wanted a female star. “
Polly Pivot is that kid star. Paw Paw is the loving and supportive grandfather and greenskeeper Greenie fills the role of arch enemy as a rigid golf instructor with a bad cap and bad advice.
“I’m Greenskeeper Greenie – and I’m here to teach.
The professional golfer wants to play bubble beach.
Just listen to me – I’ve seen EVERY recording.
The ONLY way to play is to swing like a robot. “
Jacobs destroys rhyme as a literary vehicle to get their message across in a book illustrated by Ron Noble. She hopes to follow up with more books that introduce the characters Dolly Divots and Sandy Trap, with Polly Pivots still being the heroine.
“Part of my goal is to get little boys to look up to female celebrities,” Jacobs said. “How can I become like Harry Potter in sports? When I went traveling to read all of these books, there was nothing for children. There are some sports books out there, but they’re terrible. … So, I said, perfect, that’s a big challenge. It took me about a year and a half to write it and find all the characters. “
Jacobs said that getting kids to golf and getting kids to read is something that I’m very passionate about. It’s just so important to read and determine that at an early age. “
But the ultimate hope for the project is video. “It’s definitely a series,” said Jacobs of other books to come. “And the big goal is animation.”
Jacobs used her network of Hollywood Wilshire golf contacts to initiate talks with Reese Witherspoon’s production company. An agreement was reached shortly before the end of the negotiations – “the ninth inning”, Jacobs called it – a deal failed and will be examined again later.
“You get rejected all the time,” said Jacobs. “The publishers rejected me, I totally understand it.”
While Polly Pivots had Paw Paw, Mary Jacobs had John, the eldest of her five brothers, as her gateway to golf. A spacious garden and an adjacent cornfield were their first golf course. A shovel and a dishcloth were the makeshift pin and flag.
“I fell in love with it very quickly,” she says.
And when John Jacobs took his little sister to a real golf course, life changed for Mary Ellen Jacobs. She dropped the Ellen shortly after introducing the name through Marquette Golf.
“I had kind of always thought of it,” said Jacobs. “My family called me Mary Ellen. And I introduced myself to tournaments on the first tee and it was always nice to meet you, Marilyn. I was, you know what, Mary is a lot easier. So I probably dropped it right after high school. “
It was a slight abbreviation of the name, more out of convenience than preference. It’s still Mary Ellen in River Bend. “It’s not that I mind or anything,” she said with a laugh.
Mary Ellen Jacobs first made headlines after winning the Pepsi Little People’s Championship in Quincy at age 15 and receiving an invitation to the LPGA Michelob Light Classic in Forest Hills the summer before her freshman year with Marquette.
Jacobs attributes much of her early success to golf instructor Jim Rohan. She also took a few lessons from former Alton High golf coach Larry Overath. Rohan owned and operated the Glen Haven driving range in Godfrey and gave Jacobs a job to help cover golf costs. When Jacobs was using the facility, she fetched her own balls and worked for her training time.
“I had to pick up the whole pallet,” said Jacobs. “I had to make money. I didn’t take a lot of classes, back then it was $ 20. I learned an appreciation and gratitude for every opportunity to play golf whenever I could. That really shaped my character if I just look back. “
Jacobs comes home once or twice a year to visit parents Tony and Mary Jo, who still live in Godfrey. Three of her five brothers also live in Godfrey, one in Mascoutah and one in New York. Mary Jacobs is on the west coast teaching golf to young girls and boys with so many more options and permissions than she had.
“I live in Los Angeles now,” said Jacobs. “And I think, oh my god, these kids have everything right at their fingertips. What will inspire them to really go outside and do something? I look back and it’s, wow, I’m just so grateful for my background and the way I grew up in the towns of Godfrey and Alton. It was wonderful and I think people see these values in me as a teacher out there. “
After winning the one-rate IHSA state title in a playoff on a 36-hole score of 153 after falling three strokes back and nine holes as Marquette Senior, Jacobs’ college career took her to Tulane and then – to Hurricane Katrina closed golf in New Orleans – to Arizona.
She was a college All-American and she saw the world through her game of golf. Playing at an LPGA event as a Godfrey teenager, Jacobs presented challenges that Jacobs used to develop her one, two, follow through perspective on golf and life.
“Looking back, I was maybe a little too young,” said Jacobs of the game against professional golfers. “It was great in one way and difficult in another. I’m not sure I was really ready to deal with this pressure. You can look at it either way. It was wonderful at the time and the exposure was great. But I think my game might not have been too ready for this type of stage.
“All of these moments create character and help you deal with your emotions in life. That’s the big metaphor I’m talking about in the book. Getting kids to really deal with life because it’s unfair, it goes up and down, it’s good days, it’s bad days. And I think I learned a lot while playing golf. “