Jones was born March 17, 1902 in Atlanta, Georgia. His early years did not hint about his future success. He was often sick, and was 5-years-old before he could eat solid food. His family moved near Atlanta's East Lake Country Club when he was 6 years old, which is when he took up golf. He won many tournaments, beginning at age 9, and began competing in major events during his teens. When he was 22, Jones married Mary Rice Malone, and the two had three children, one of whom -- Robert III -- took up golf. Jones retired from golf in 1930.
Expectations were high after Jones, at 14, made it to the third round of the U.S. Amateur Championship. For as much public pressure as there was on him, he put a large amount of pressure on himself, too. Tournaments were so stressful that he could not eat and would lose as many as 15 pounds during a single event. He chain-smoked through the tournaments and struggled to control his temper. One of the low points of his career was in 1921 during the British Open. He played well during the first two rounds, then struggled through the first 10 holes of his third round. He hit his ball into the bunker on the 11th hole, then picked the ball up without completing the hole, which resulted in his withdrawal from the tournament. He later would say that was his "most inglorious failure" in golf. But his run of brilliance was just on the horizon.
Following the British Open debacle, Jones turned his game around. He won 13 of the 21 national events in played in between 1923 and 1930. He competed in eight U.S. Amateur Championships, winning five and placing second in another. He played in two British Opens, winning one. In his last 12 open championships (British and U.S.) Jones won seven times and finished second four times. His victories at the U.S. and British Opens in 1926 made him the first golfer to ever achieve the Double -- winning both open championships in the same year. But that was just a precursor for 1930, when he claimed all four major championships of the time -- the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur. Most people assumed he would turn professional after that, but Jones had other plans.
No time for full-time
Despite all of his golf achievements, Jones never was a full-time golfer. Instead, he played golf for three months out of the year, considering it a game, not a career. The rest of the time he spent attending different universities and acquiring degrees in law, English literature, and mechanical engineering. After he retired from golf in 1930, he opened a law firm in Atlanta. In an interview after he retired, Jones said, "My wife and children came first; then my profession; finally, and never in a life by itself, came golf."
While he retired from playing golf to focus on his career in law, Jones stayed involved in the game. The year after he retired, he began making short instructional videos called "How I Play Golf." He also designed golf clubs, and founded Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Tournament. That event, now a major championship, is still played at Augusta in the spring of each year. The diagnosis of a central nervous system disease during his later years ended Jones' recreational golfing and confined him to a wheelchair. Jones died Dec. 18, 1971, when he was 69 years old. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.