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Korby's Connections: We lost a golfing great

 

December 3, 2021



I was saddened to hear that my high school driver education teacher, Gerald “Jiggs” La Breche, recently passed away. Jiggs was a legend at the Cloquet and Big Lake golf clubs. He was a longtime Cromwell social studies teacher and a fixture of the West Carlton Avenue neighborhood in Cloquet.

I wrote about Jiggs for the Cloquet Country Club membership newsletter in April 2018. The following are some excerpts from that piece.

Jiggs was born in 1932. He grew up on West Carlton Avenue and spent most of his life in the house he is currently living in or the house next door. His dad built both of them.

Jiggs said the west end of Cloquet was known as “Blue Town” back then. He’s not sure why, other than there were several houses painted blue. It stretched from Pinehurst Park to the golf course. Jiggs said he lived closer to the course than any other kid: he could run out his back door to the country club.

He and his two older brothers began caddying at the club at very young ages, when Jiggs was about 8. There were three designations of caddies based on ability and experience. The pay rates for nine holes for an “A” caddy was 40 cents, “B” was 30 and “C” 20 cents.

Caddies were allowed to play at the course on Monday mornings. He said that you asked to borrow clubs from someone that you caddied for regularly. Ladies’ clubs worked the best for him at his young age. Caddies were, of course, expected to find their own balls. His favorite was the Spalding Bomber. Most kids in Blue Town had a little golf course in their backyard with tomato can cups, he said. They played with whatever other clubs they could scrape up.

Jiggs played on the Cloquet High School golf team, lettering from eighth- to 12th grade. Golf season was typically in the fall, but in his junior year it changed to a spring sport. For that school year, Jiggs actually lettered twice.

After school, Jiggs went into the military and was stationed in Puerto Rico. He then attended the University of Minnesota Duluth and became a social studies teacher, primarily in Cromwell.

He continued playing golf throughout his lifetime.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Cloquet Invitational was truly an “invitational” tournament. Northwest Paper sales and manufacturing representatives were invited from across the United States, as were the top amateur golfers in the region and neighboring states. Players were usually required to belong to a private club.

For many years, there was a signup sheet and only 20 or so CCC members were eligible to play. The invitees included local notaries but also many state amateur champions.

The Cloquet Country Club always had a reputation as a challenging and beautiful course. Top players from Cloquet included Jiggs, Harry Newby and Clare Hendrickson.

I asked Jiggs to tell me about his Cloquet Invitational win in 1958. In 1957, Jiggs was the first golfer to break par during the tournament, shooting a 71 (par was 72). He said he had one birdie and 17 pars.

Jiggs was the first Invitational winner to claim Cloquet as home.

In the 1960s, Jiggs moved to Eagle Lake in Cromwell to be closer to his job. With the proximity, he became a charter member of the Big Lake Golf Club. He dropped his CCC membership but continued to play at the club in tournaments and other special events.

Rest in peace, Jiggs. You’ll be missed.

Steve Korby’s interest in writing goes back to when he was in fourth grade and editor of the Scan-Satellite school newspaper in Scanlon. Steve loves sports, especially golf. He welcomes human interest stories and tales regarding Carlton County residents, projects, history, and plans. Send your ideas to [email protected]

 
 

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