Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr (March 17, 1902 - December 18, 1971) was one of the most dominant figures in the sport of golf by winning 13 majors, and becoming the first player to complete the Grand Slam of golf in 1930. Jones was the most successful amateur golfer ever to compete on a national and international level. During his peak as a golfer from 1923 to 1930, he dominated top-level amateur competition. He was a relentless perfectionist who spent hours practicing his famous swing, and developed the ability to vary the distance of his shots by increasing the length of his backswing. After retiring from golf at the age in 1930, Jones spent his time in a variety of activities, including as a developer of the famous Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters Tournament, commonly referred to as simply The Masters, which Jones started with Clifford Ray in 1934. The Masters evolved into one of golf's four major championships. Jones did come out of retirement in 1934, to play in the Masters, on an exhibition basis until 1948, when he quit golf permanently, due to ill health.
While a private club, Augusta, and by extension Jones, was later criticized for excluding African Americans players from the tournament during its early years. Lee Elder broke the color barrier in 1975.
In 1948, he was diagnosed with syringomyelia, and it led to his death in 1971. Three years after he passed away, Jones was named to the World Golf Hall of Fame for his amazing talent, and contributions to the game of Golf.
Bobby was born as the only son to prominent lawyer colonel Robert P. Jones in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was an amazing athlete, and was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbras baseball team (now known as the Brooklyn Dodgers). While growing up, Bobby was constantly sick, and could not digest food until the age of five. In a attempt to help Bobby add weight to his frame, the family decided to move to a summer home next to the fairways of Atlanta's East Lake Country Club. It was here that the young Jones began to grow stronger and play sports, particularly baseball and golf. At the age of six Jones started swinging golf clubs, when one of his nearby neighbors gave him a one-iron to practice a swing. Not a year later, Jones was mimicking the swing of Stewart Maiden, the Scottish East Lake professional. "He was never lonesome with a golf club in his hands, he must have been born with a deep love for the game. He was certainly born with the soul of perfectionist,"said the country club pro. At the age of 11, Jones shot an 80 on the old course at East Lake, bringing his father to tears. One year later, Jones shot a 70, and won two championships at the club.
First years as a pro
At the age of 14, Jones entered his first major tournament, the U.S Amateur. Jones already was considered a player with outstanding potential, destined for greatness in the game. After winning two matches, Bobby was eliminated from the tournament. With the large amount of national press, and expectations put on the Amateur, Jones struggled in his early years: "Bobby was a short, rotund kid, with the face of an angel, and the temper of a timber wolf, at a missed shot his sunny smile could turn more suddenly into a black storm cloud than the Nazis grab a country. Even at the age of 14 Bobby could not understand how anyone could ever miss any kind of golf shot."
For the next seven years of his professional career, Jones continued to struggle with short fuse on his temper, and extremely high expectations. Jones and many followers of his amazing career claimed his low point was the 1921 British Open. At the 11th green, Jones committed one of the biggest sins in golf, by picking up (and quitting) after a day in which he had already played over 50 shots. Jones later claimed "It was the most inglorious failure of my golfing life."
1923 U.S Open
After overcoming his temper, Jones broke through at the 1923 U.S Open at Inwood Country Club in New York to win his first major tournament. Jones looked like he had the championship well in hand going into the 16th hole, but a bogey, bogey, double-bogey finish, left the door open for Bobby Cruickshank to tie him. The poor finish by Jones led to an 18-hole playoff. The tournament came down to the final hole. With 190 yards to go, and in a poor lie, Jones decided to hit his two-iron over the water, landing it eight feet from the pin. The shot is considered by some as the most distinguished in his career. That shot started the momentum for Jones to begin the best championship run in the history of the game of golf.
After the his first U.S Open win in 1923, Bobby Jones began his eight-year run when he won six more majors: The U.S Open, three times, in 1926, 1929, and 1930, and the PGA Championship, three times, in 1926, 1927, and 1930. Shortly after his final win, Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930, with plans to construct a state-of-the-art golf course. Through his 1930 victory in the U.S. Amateur he won 13 Major Championships (as they were counted at the time) in 20 attempts, a mark that would be eclipsed by only Jack Nicklaus' 20 wins and Tiger Woods' 15 wins (including their U.S. Amateur championships). Jones was the first player to win The Double, both the U.S. Open and the British Open in the same year (1926). He is still the only player ever to have won the Grand Slam, or all four major championships, in the same year. He represented the United States in the Walker Cup five times, winning nine of his ten matches. He also won two other tournaments against professionals: the 1927 Southern Open and the 1930 Southeastern Open. Jones was a life-long member of the Atlanta Athletic Club and the Capital City Club in Atlanta.
Prior to the start of the 1930, Jones had compiled a list of accomplishments many professionals could only dream about. He had already won nine major championships, and was already considered by his peers as a dominating force in the sport. With no one else to impress except himself, Jones went on to do the unthinkable by winning the then Grand Slam of golf by winning the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, and British Amateur in the same season. (The professional Grand Slam is currently composed of the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA championship.) It was during this remarkable season that Jones became a hero to his peers and aspiring golfers all over the world. After winning the two British tournaments, Jones came home to a ticker-tape parade in Brooklyn, New York with two tournaments left to complete the slam. After winning the U.S Open at Interlachen Country Club in Minneapolis by sinking his birdie putt on the final hole, Jones had just one event left. In late September, Marion Cricket Club was exploding with excitement about the final event: "Eighteen thousand hysterical historians came to Merion to see one man, now he had to finish the Grand Slam, which was his goal though he'd confided it to no one, by winning at Merion.". Jones completed the Grand Slam by taking home his fifth U.S. Amateur title, which was played outside Philadelphia. Several Marine bodyguards protected Jones from screaming fans after he completed the Slam. "In the clubhouse, after a talk with his father, he began to digest the reality that the Grand Slam was factually behind him and with it the ever-accumulating strain he had carried for months." After finishing the biggest accomplishment in the history of the sport, Jones retired at the young age of 28.
Saint Andrews, Scotland
Jones had a unique relationship with the town of Saint Andrews, Scotland. On his first appearance on the Old Course in The Open Championship of 1921, he withdrew after 11 holes in the third round. He firmly stated his dislike for the Old Course and the town reciprocated, saying in the press, "Master Bobby is just a boy, and an ordinary boy at that." He came to love the Old Course and the town like few others. When he won the Open at the Old Course in 1927, he wowed the crowd by asking that the trophy remain with his friends at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club rather than return with him to Atlanta. In 1958, he was named a Freeman of the City of Saint Andrews, becoming only the second American to be so honored; the first was Benjamin Franklin in 1759. Today, a scholarship exchange bearing the Jones name exists between the University of Saint Andrews and both Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. A similar exchange exists in Canada between Saint Andrew's University and the University of Western Ontario and Queen's University; the associated foundation is under the patronage of Prince Andrew, Duke of York as a member of the Canadian Royal Family.
While Bobby Jones will be most known for his outstanding career on the golf course, he established himself in a career as well. In 1920, Jones graduated from Georgia Tech University, with a degree in mechanical engineering. The dean of the school recalls him as "a real gentleman in every respect: modest, unassuming, never mentioning his golf game." At the age of 21, Jones attended Harvard College, and earned an English degree in only three semesters of work. While at the university, Jones was not permitted to play on the golf team due to his membership with the golf team at Georgia Tech University, during his tenure there. While at Harvard, Jones decided to seek the position of the team manager, so he could get a crimson-Harvard letter, but with the position already filled, he reluctantly decided to take the assistant position. During the year helping the team, Jones beat all six of Harvard's top golfers in an informal match. He later became a member of Harvard's Varsity Hall-of-Fame, although he never officially competed for the university.
Life after Golf
After retiring from the game, Jones married Mary Rice Malone in 1924, and had three children, Clara, Robert Tyre III, and Mary Ellen. He also kept himself busy by making eighteen instructional films and also worked with A.G. Spalding & Co. to develop the first set of matched clubs. He also is known for co-designing the Augusta National course with Alister MacKenzie and for being one of the founders of The Masters Tournament, first played at Augusta in 1934. During World War II, while he was serving as an officer in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Jones permitted the U.S. Army to graze cattle on the grounds at Augusta National. Later, in 1945, he founded Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta and co-designed the course with Robert Trent Jones.
In 1948, Jones was diagnosed with syringomyelia, a fluid-filled cavity in his spinal cord which caused first pain, then paralysis. The disease eventually conquered Jones when he died in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1971. Bobby is buried in Atlanta's historic Oakland Cemetery. Three years after his death, Jones became a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Jones is considered one of the five giants of the 1920s American sports scene, along with baseball's Babe Ruth, boxing's Jack Dempsey, American football's Red Grange, and tennis player Bill Tilden. He was the first recipient of the Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. He was the first person ever to receive two ticker-tape parades in New York City, the first in 1926 and the second in 1930. Astronaut John Glenn was the only other person so honored. Jones is memorialized in Augusta, Georgia at the Golf Gardens and has the Bobby Jones Expressway, also known as Interstate 520, named for him. Jones will not only be remembered for being a consummately skilled golfer, but also for exemplifying the principles of sportsmanship and fair play. In the beginning of his amateur career, he was in the final playoff of the U.S. Open. During the match, his ball ended up in the rough just off the fairway, and as he was setting up to play his shot his iron caused a slight movement of the ball. He immediately got angry with himself, turned to the marshals, and called a penalty on himself. The marshals discussed among themselves and questioned some of the gallery if anyone had seen Jones' ball move. Their decision was that neither they nor anyone else had witnessed any incident, so the decision was left to Jones. Bobby Jones called the two-stroke penalty on himself, not knowing that he would lose the tournament by one stroke. When he was praised for his gesture, Jones replied, "You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank." The United States Golf Association's sportsmanship award is named the Bob Jones Award in his honor. Jones also showed determination off the course for working hard at his education, being a good father, serving his country as a U.S Army Air Forces officer, and showing amazing dedication in his career after golf.
|Year||Championship||54 Holes||Winning Score||Margin||Runners Up|
|1923||U.S. Open||3 shot lead||+8 (71-73-76-76=296)||Playoff 1||Bobby Cruickshank|
|1926||U.S. Open (2)||3 shot deficit||+5 (70-79-71-73=293)||1 stroke||Joe Turnesa|
|1926||The Open Championship||-2 (291)||2 strokes||Al Watrous|
|1927||The Open Championship (2)||-6 (69-72-72-72=285)||6 strokes||Aubrey Boomer|
|1929||U.S. Open (3)||3 shot lead||+6 (69-75-71-79=294)||Playoff 2||Al Espinosa|
|1930||U.S. Open (4)||5 shot lead||-1 (71-73-68-75=287)||2 strokes||Macdonald Smith|
|1930||The Open Championship (3)||1 shot deficit||-2 (70-72-74-75=291)||2 strokes||Leo Diegel, Macdonald Smith|
1 Defeated Bobby Cruickshank in 18-hole playoff: Jones (76), Cruickshank (78)
2 Defeated Al Espinosa in 36-hole playoff: Jones (72-69=141), Espinosa (84-80=164)
- U.S. Amateur: 1924, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930
- British Amateur: 1930
Jones appeared in a series of short instructional films produced by Warner Brothers in 1931 titled How I Play Golf, by Bobby Jones (12 films) and in 1933 titled How to Break 90 (6 films). Actors and actresses, mostly under contract with Warner Brothers, but also from other studios, volunteered to appear in these 18 episodes. Some of the more well known actors to appear in the instructional plots included James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, Edward G. Robinson, W.C. Fields, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Richard Barthelmess, Richard Arlen, Guy Kibbee, Warner Oland and Loretta Young. Various scenarios involving the actors were used to provide an opportunity for Jones to convey a lesson about a particular part of the game. The shorts were directed by the prolific George Marshall.
Jones was the subject of the quasi-biographical 2004 feature film Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius in which he was portrayed by James Caviezel. The film was a major box office flop, grossing only $1.2 million the first weekend and $2.7 million overall, against a production cost of over $17 million. The film was also littered with historical inaccuracies.
The Jones legend was also used to create a supporting character in The Legend of Bagger Vance in 2000, and the event where he called his own penalty is used for the main character, Rannulph Junuh.
Jones authored several books on golf including Down the Fairway with O.B. Keeler (1927), The Rights and Wrongs of Golf (1933), Golf Is My Game (1959), Bobby Jones on Golf (1966), and Bobby Jones on the Basic Golf Swing (1968) with illustrator Anthony Ravielli.
Jones has been the subject of several books, most notably The Bobby Jones Story and A Boy's Life of Bobby Jones, both by O.B. Keeler. Other notable texts are The Life and Times of Bobby Jones: Portrait of a Gentleman by Sidney L. Matthew, and Triumphant Journey: The Saga of Bobby Jones and The Grand Slam of Golf by Richard Miller. Just recently published in 2006, The Grand Slam by Mark Frost, has received much attention for its evocative of Jones's life and times.
The Bobby Jones Golf Company
Founded in 2003, the Bobby Jones Golf Company designs, develops and sells premium quality metal-woods. The company has an exclusive, worldwide license agreement with the family of Bobby Jones (known as Jonesheirs, Inc.) and the internationally renowned Hartmarx Corporation for the use of the Bobby Jones name for golf equipment and golf accessories, including items such as bags, balls, shoes, hats, gloves and other product lines. Under the agreement, the company has the exclusive sublicensing rights with third parties for the aforementioned items, including clubs.
Each club is hand-crafted by masterful club designer Jesse Ortiz, the same man who introduced the world to the TriMetal(TM) fairway wood in 1998. See [www.bobbyjonesgolf.net.]
- Rapoport, R. "The Immortal Bobby: Bobby Jones and the Golden Age of Golf." Wiley Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0471473723
All links retrieved November 17, 2023.
- Bobby Jones at Find-A-Grave Retrieved July 12, 2007.
- Larry Schwartz Bobby Jones was golf's fast studywww.espn.com.
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