The Life of Bobby Jones

By Bill Herrfeldt

Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., better known as Bobby Jones, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 17, 1902. By the time he was 6 years old, he had already won his first tournament and was thought of as a golf prodigy. By the time he was 20 years old, he had already won his three Southern Open titles and was well on his way to becoming the most famous golfer who ever lived. Most interesting about him was that he remained an amateur throughout his career, which lasted until he was 28 years old and he chose to retire from the game.


Bobby Jones graduated from Georgia Tech in 1922 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He then attended Harvard and received a second degree, this one in English Literature. Then he returned to Georgia to receive his law degree from Emory University after only one year. He practiced law until his death in 1971.

Golf Career

When he was 14 years old, he won the Georgia State Amateur Championship and also made it to the third round of the U.S. Amateur Championship. In 1917 and 1918, he was invited to play a number of exhibition matches to raise money for the U.S. war effort. He qualified for the U.S. Open Championship for the first time when he was 18 years old in 1920. Between 1923--when he won his first U.S. Open Championship--and 1930, he won a total of 13 major championships in 20 attempts. At the time, the major tournaments were the Open and Amateur of both the United States and Great Britain, and he was the first player in history to win both the U.S. and British Opens and is still the only golfer in history to win all four majors in a single calendar year. He was the first person to win the coveted Sullivan Award from the AAU as the athlete of the year, and was the only individual athlete honored with a New York ticker-tape parade.

Personal History

Bobby Jones had three children with his wife, Mary Rice Malone, whom he married in 1924. Following his retirement in 1930, he made almost 20 instructional golf films and developed the first set of matched clubs for A.G. Spalding & Co. 

Augusta and the Masters

After retiring from competitive golf, Jones collaborated with Alister MacKensie to build and design the famous Augusta National Golf Club. Like many other white Southerners from the era, Jones was a segregationist, and Augusta remained a white-only club until finally accepting a black member in 1990.

In 1934, Jones founded the Masters Golf Championship at his home course in Augusta, which has since become one of golf's major tournaments. Jones would play in the Masters for fun but he never came close to winning it. Instead, Jones enjoyed retirement and his burgeoning law practice.

Admirable Trait

Bobby Jones not only was one of the best golfers who ever lived, he also helped establish the standard of sportsmanship that sets golf apart from many other sports. At the U.S. Open in 1925, he called a two-stroke penalty on himself for moving the ball with his club. The officials asked the crowd if they saw the ball move, which they didn't. Leaving it up to Jones to make the call, he assessed himself the penalty. He would lose the tournament by a single shot. During an interview following the tournament, he was asked if he would do that again. He simply said, "I would."

Death and Final Glory

Bobby Jones died on December 18, 1971, after having been diagnosed with syringomyelia, a painful condition that restricted him to a wheelchair. Three years following his death he was posthumously inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, now in St. Augustine, Florida. He has since been portrayed in the films Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius and in The Legend of Bagger Vance. 

About The Author

Bill Herrfeldt specializes in finance, sports and the needs of retiring people, and has been published in the national edition of "Erickson Tribune," the "Washington Post" and the "Arizona Republic." He graduated from the University of Louisville.


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