Here’s what happened.
Of course folks around these parts regard Atlanta native Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones Jr. as the greatest golfer in history. But the best evidence is contained in official records.
Jones won the U.S. Amateur Open Invitational Tournament on September 27, 1930 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He thus became the first person to win each of the sport’s four major tournaments in the same year: the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur Open and British Amateur Open. That feat became known as the Grand Slam of golf.
Here’s why it mattered then.
The prowess and sportsmanship displayed by Jones during his championship years are even more amazing when his beginnings are considered. He was a frail child, and took up golf as exercise. By the time he was 14, Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) members who watched him play at the East Lake golf course in Atlanta regarded him as a prodigy.
They also regarded him as immature and spoiled. Jones was intensely competitive, short-tempered, and impatient with himself. His performance at the British Open in 1921 was typical. After struggling in the early rounds, Jones simply picked up his ball and quit.
Here’s why it matters now.
By 1923 Jones had mellowed and was displaying a new discipline. For the next seven years he dominated the sport. Combined with the Grand Slam, Jones won the majors several times (U.S. Open, four; British Open, three; U.S. Amateur, five; British Amateur one). He retired from competitive play in 1931, when he was only 28 years old.
The modern Grand Slam now includes The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. Five men have achieved a Career Grand Slam: Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen, and Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods. But only Jones has achieved it in the same calendar year.
Here’s the latest update . . .
After retiring, Jones and a co-investor named Clifford Roberts purchased land near Augusta to build a golf course on what had been an indigo plantation. Alister MacKenzie designed one that was so marvelous it spawned a tournament and an organization to host it, Augusta National Golf Club. Every year, The Masters contributes hugely to the billion-dollar impact golf makes on Georgia.
Beyond his sports accolades, Jones is remembered for his grace and dignity after a debilitating illness forced him to give up golf completely in 1948. He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The legendary golf writer Herbert Warren Wind wrote of Jones: “As a young man he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which isn’t easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst.”
. . . And here’s an interesting fact!
The Atlanta Athletic Club was founded in 1898. Programs in swimming, tennis, basketball, and track were offered at its original clubhouse on Edgewood Avenue. The director was a man who was famous for his success with Georgia Tech’s football program: John William Heisman.