Jane Jensen lived her life the way she played on the golf course: with a healthy dose of camaraderie among teammates and focus when it came time to swing. She flourished in the golf world in the 1970s, an era in which women were beginning to find their way to the sport, and was part of the University of Minnesota’s women’s golf team that nabbed the school’s first Big Ten championship for women.
But golf was just one entry in the St. Paul resident’s diverse résumé, which included painting and locksmithing. Jensen died Oct. 21 from uterine cancer, a few months after her 60th birthday.
Friends and family described her as a cheery go-getter. Her wife, Nan Nelson, called her an “old soul.”
“This was a woman who would wake up with a smile on her face, no matter what was going on, and find such an adventure in every day,” Nelson said.
Jensen’s life and career took several twists, including teaching golf at Dellwood Country Club, lending a hand in the building of the Mall of America and helping craft the adaptive floor hockey program at Fridley High School.
She was born in 1956 in Watertown, Minn. She caught the golf bug at an early age. In 1963, her parents bought land to build a nine-hole golf course to fulfill their father’s lifelong dream, said Jensen’s brother Tory Jensen, who lives in Oviedo, Fla.
“Despite playing an individual sport, she thrived in a team atmosphere,” said Mary O’Brien of Chaska, who had known Jensen since they were children in Watertown.
Jensen’s brothers Tory and Leif Jensen remember frequenting golf courses with their sister. Her skills were so elevated that she bypassed the girls’ team at Watertown High School to play for the boys’ — taking home the Most Valuable Player Award her senior year.
Though girls didn’t usually play on boys’ teams, she fit in, said Tory, who played on the team alongside his sister.
Jensen went on to golf at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn., but returned home her senior year to golf for the University of Minnesota. In 1978, her team took home the first Big Ten championship for female athletes at the U. Jensen “could always crack a joke or lighten up the situation if it got too intense,” said U teammate Kathy Williams, who lives in Chicago.
Golf and meditation
Jensen moved to Florida for a few years, and then back to Minnesota. She taught golf at Dellwood Country Club and spent some of her career as a locksmith and in finance at the University of Minnesota.
Jensen began practicing Tibetan Buddhism when her brother Cleve died from cancer at age 27, Nelson said.
Once, when the Dalai Lama was visiting the Twin Cities, Jensen was among the bystanders as he participated in a street procession. During the procession, one of the monks stopped, turned to Jensen and bowed to her. Jensen bowed back, Nelson said.
Nelson met Jensen through mutual friends in 1995. Jensen would photograph, paint and garden, Nelson said.
Jensen got sick in December 2014, and had cancer surgery.
The couple married in May 2015. A few days later, Jensen was back in surgery because the cancer had come back.
She “just continued to live and planned on living,” Nelson said, and added that she was doing well until recently.
“I wish we could all be more like her,” Nelson said.
In addition to her wife and two brothers, Jensen is survived by many in-laws, nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held Nov. 12 at Roselawn Cemetery Chapel, 803 Larpenteur Av. in Roseville.