Who Was Bobby Jones?

By John Lindell

Born Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., Bobby Jones evolved from an ultra-talented youngster who could not keep his temper into the icon of the sport, known for his sportsmanship and grace. Bobby Jones was the first golfer to complete what the sport calls its "Grand Slam," and then abruptly stopped playing to focus on other things, among them devising a tournament that became as famous as he was.
 

Childhood

Bobby Jones was born on March 17, 1902, to affluent parents in Atlanta, Georgia. Jones was so ill as a child that he could not consume solid food until he was 5, according to the ESPN Classic Sportscentury Biography website. When his family moved to near the area's East Lake Country Club when he was still quite young, Jones took up the sport, learning from Stewart Malden, the club pro. By the time he was 11 years old he had the ability to shoot 80 on the course and at age 12, he won a pair of club championships, shooting in the 70s.

Breakthrough

Jones entered the United States Amateur in 1916 at 14 years old and won two rounds before falling behind the eventual winner. Nevertheless, he struggled with his temper, expecting perfection on every stroke and losing his cool frequently. Jones allowed his emotions to rule his game. In the 1921 British Open, Jones had a 50 going into the 11th green and simply quit, picking up his ball. It was not until two years later, at the 1923 U.S. Open, that Jones finally combined his talent with the harnessing of his passion for perfection. While leading comfortably down the stretch, he nearly collapsed, shooting 4-over-par on the last three holes and winding up in a tie. In the subsequent 18-hole playoff, Jones hit a wonderful shot on the last hole to win the title, which began his dominance of the sport for the rest of the decade.

Time Frame

The U.S. and British Amateur tournaments were major championships before the Masters and the PGA Championship replaced them as part of Golf's Grand Slam. Bobby Jones won the U.S. Amateur on five different occasions between 1924 and 1930. He won four U.S. Opens from 1923 through 1930 as well as three British Opens between 1926 and 1930. Jones finally won the British Amateur title in 1930, as part of his Grand Slam.

Grand Slam

In 1930, Bobby Jones began his Grand Slam dreams at St. Andrews in Scotland, winning the British Amateur after enduring many narrow escapes in his eight matches. At Hoylake, he took the British Open by two strokes and then headed to the Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota for the U.S. Open. He secured that championship with a pressure-packed 40-foot birdie putt on 18 after double bogeying the prior hole. After Jones won the U.S. Amateur in Philadelphia to record a win in all four major championships in one year, a group of Marines were needed to protect him from the fans who wanted to get close to him as he left the course.

Later Years

Jones retired from competitive golf after 1930 at the age of 28. He possessed diplomas from both Georgia Tech and Harvard and he became a lawyer in Atlanta. Jones helped found the Augusta National Golf Club, and had a hand in designing its famed course. Like many other whites 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 helped found the Masters Tournament at his home course in Augusta, which has since become one of golf's major tournaments. Jones would play in the Masters as part of its tradition but he never came close to winning it as his focus was now on his law career. He developed a spinal affliction called syringomelia in 1948 and spent the remainder of his years in a wheelchair. Bobby Jones died on Dec. 18, 1971. He has since been portrayed in the films Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius and in The Legend of Bagger Vance. 

About The Author

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.

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