As the Snyders 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 largely formed in the last five years of his life.
“We weren’t sure what to do, but I knew right away we had to put something together,” Jacci Snyder said.
A heartfelt condolence, one of more than Powell residents can count, turned the tide as the family considered starting a fund in honor of Jack Elton Snyder, an up-and-coming Olentangy Liberty golfer who died by suicide March 11, 2021 at . age 17.
“A former football coach for Jack suggested the name ‘JES and USA,'” Jacci Snyder recalled, her voice trembling at times, of a name that combines her son’s initials with the family’s deep religious beliefs. “He was convinced that Jack was the most beloved son ever and he told me that your JES and the USA will be there forever.”
Two years later, Snyders’ mission gets off to a promising start.
The Jack Elton Snyder Foundation has awarded 23 scholarships worth more than $143,000 to junior golfers across central Ohio, helping with tournament entry fees, lessons at The Golf Room in Dublin and general expenses associated with the game.
“You have to play all the time to keep your game up,” said Sean Snyder, Jack’s father. “That’s what he did most of the time, play golf with his friends and girlfriend (former New Albany and current Illinois standout Anna Ritter).
“We definitely wanted the foundation (to be) golf-based because the game meant so much to Jack.”
Perhaps best of all for the Snyders, they know other youth across central Ohio possess the same qualities and, to some degree, carry on Jack’s legacy — even if they never knew him.
Leaves its mark
The youngest of three children by several years — brother Chase is 24 and sister Kirsten Biever is 39 — Jack’s trademarks included what his mother called “big blue eyes and a big megawatt smile,” not to mention a mane of curly blond hair , Jack insisted on wearing below the shoulders.
Haircuts, minimal as they were, came once a year until he adopted a shorter style in high school.
Jack dabbled in basketball, cross country, flag football, lacrosse and soccer, but golf came to the fore in seventh grade.
“He decided he wanted to play golf in middle school and he made the team, maybe the second-to-last guy, but he was super excited,” Sean said. “From that point on, he just got better and better.”
Jack competed in several American Junior Golf Association and Central Ohio Golf Association tournaments, improving to the point where he competed in the July 2020 US Kids World Championships in Pinehurst, North Carolina. According to Sean, Jack shot 78 on the final day.
On his way home, he shot 70 in an AJGA qualifier in Ashland, Kentucky, to earn a spot in an upcoming tournament.
That fall at Liberty, Snyder earned first-team all-league.
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College golf seemed like a distinct possibility, but whether or not it came to fruition, Jack impacted his classmates, friends and family in ways he might not have recognized. The proof came in the abundance of his celebration of life, numbering more than 1,000, and the response for the scholarships. Faith, values and perseverance were prioritized.
“The goal was to find junior golfers who have these qualities, are coachable and have the desire to continue and advance their game,” said Tracey Bricker, 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.”
‘A purpose for our pain’
Two recent scholarship recipients credited dramatic improvements in their game 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 before a seven-year professional career.
“It was a very big opportunity,” Hilliard Darby junior Maddie Digel said. “It allowed me to not only grow in the game of golf, but also with leadership development and spiritual growth. Golf is fun, but you’re also playing for something bigger than yourself.”
Bella Mitchell, who is homeschooled but will play golf at Canal Winchester as a freshman this fall, has dropped more than 30 strokes and added nearly 90 yards to her drive this past year. She carded a lifetime-best 88 on June 20 during a US Kids tournament at Little Turtle.
“We drive over an hour round trip (from Canal Winchester to Dublin) because it’s such a great opportunity,” said Bella’s mother, Janeisha. “She shoots 88 in eighth grade. You know what she’s going to do when she’s a senior? What does that do for the trajectory of her life? That’s a really big deal.”
Among other things, the foundation collects money from Liberty’s annual golf scramble and will hold its first independent fundraising event on October 26 at The Golf Room. It’s two days before Jack’s 20th birthday.
Biever, whose 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, takes lessons at The Golf Room, was moved to hear Digal and Mitchell’s stories.
“None of them said it was just about golf,” Biever said. “Holistic, spiritual, every single aspect, that’s what we want to do. It is our passion. We don’t know exactly where it will lead us, but who knows what doors may open? We are just grateful. God continues to show us a purpose for our pain.”