As the Snyder family grappled with the sudden loss of their youngest son, two themes recurred.
They wanted him back, and they wanted to keep his legacy alive, a legacy that was largely shaped by the last five years of his life.
“We weren’t sure what we were going to do, but I knew right away we had to put something together,” said Jackie Snyder.
My sincere condolences, one of more than the residents of Powell can count, turned the tide as the family contemplated creating a foundation in honor of Jack Elton Snyder, the up-and-coming Olentangy Liberty golfer who died by suicide on March 11, 2021 at the age of 17.
“Jack’s former football coach suggested the name ‘JES and USA,’” Jackie Snyder recalls, with a voice that sometimes quivers, a name that combined her son’s initials and the family’s deep religious beliefs. “He was convinced that Jack was the most lovable son of all, and told me that JES and US will be there forever.”
Two years later, the Snyders’ mission is off to a promising start.
The Jack Elton Snyder Foundation has awarded 23 scholarships worth more than $143,000 to junior golfers in central Ohio, helping with entrance fees to courses, lessons at The Golf Room in Dublin, and generally defraying costs associated with the game.
“You have to play all the time to keep the game going,” said Sean Snyder, Jack’s father. That’s what he’s been doing most of the time, playing golf with his friends and girlfriend (former New Albany and current Illinois major Anna Ritter).
“We definitely wanted the foundation[to be]golf-based because the game meant so much to Jack.”
Perhaps best of all, the Snyder family knows that other young men in central Ohio possess the same qualities, and in a sense, they carry on Jack’s legacy—even if they never knew him.
left his mark
The youngest of three children by several years — brother Chase is 24 and sister Kirsten Beaver is 39 — Jack’s trademarks included what his mom called “big blue eyes and a big MW smile,” not to mention a mane of curly blonde hair that Jack insisted He wears it under his shoulders.
Hairstyles, at the very least, came about once a year until he adopted a shorter style as he entered high school.
Jack dabbled in basketball, cross country, football, lacrosse, and soccer, but golf came out on top in seventh grade.
“He decided he was going to play golf in middle school, and he made the team, maybe as the second-to-last player, but he was so excited,” Sean said. “Since then, it has gotten better and better.”
Jack has competed in several US Junior Golf Association and Central Ohio Golf Association tournaments, improving so much that he competed in the US Junior World Championships in July 2020 at Pinehurst in North Carolina. According to Sean, Jack shot 78 on the last day.
On the way home, he shot 70 at the AJGA Qualifiers in Ashland, Kentucky, to earn a spot in an upcoming tournament.
That fall at Liberty, Snyder earned a first-team all-league touchdown.
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College golf seemed a distinct possibility, but regardless of whether it would pay off, Jack was influencing his classmates, friends, and family in ways he might not have recognized. Proof came in the crowd of overflows for his celebration of life, which numbered more than 1,000, and his response to scholarship. Priority was given to faith, values and perseverance.
“The goal was to find young golfers who have these traits, who are nurturable and have the desire to get ahead and advance their game,” said Tracy Brecker, director of the JES & US Foundation. “We want the serious golfer, but we also want someone who has a balanced life and wants to spread joy.”
Aim at our pain
Two recent scholarship recipients attributed the dramatic improvement in their games to lessons at The Golf Room, a 17,000-square-foot facility in Dublin. Jack Snyder trained with founder Kyle Morris, who played golf at Olentangy and Seton Hall prior to his seven-year professional career.
“That was a very big opportunity,” Hilliard Darby Jr. told Maddie Daigle. “It has not only allowed me to grow in golf but also with leadership development and spiritual growth. Golf is fun, but you play for something bigger than yourself, too.”
Bella Mitchell, who is homeschooled but will play at Canal Winchester as a freshman this fall, dropped more than 30 catches and added nearly 90 yards to her drive last year. She landed a life best 88 on June 20 during the Little Turtle’s US Children’s Championship.
“We drive for over an hour round trip (from the Winchester Canal to Dublin) because it’s such a huge opportunity,” said Bella’s mother, Ganesha. “She’s shooting 88 in the eighth grade. You know what she’s going to do when she’s old? What does that do for her life trajectory? That’s a really big deal.”
The Foundation raises money from the annual Liberty Golf Stampede among other events and will conduct its first independent fundraising event on October 26 at The Golf Room. This is two days before Jack’s twentieth birthday.
Biever, whose 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, was taking lessons at The Golf Room, became emotional upon hearing Digal and Mitchell’s stories.
“Neither of them said it was just about golf,” Beaver said. “Holistically, spiritually, every aspect, this is what we want to do. This is our passion. We don’t know exactly where this will take us, but who knows what doors might open? We’re just grateful. God keeps showing purpose in our pain.”