Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr. (March 17, 1902 – December 18, 1971) was one of the greatest golfers to compete on a national and international level. He participated only as an amateur, primarily on a part-time basis, and chose to retire from competition at age 28.
Explaining his decision to retire, Jones said, "It (championships) is something like a cage. First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there. But of course, nobody can stay there.
Jones is most famous for his unique "Grand Slam," consisting of his victory in all four major golf tournaments of his era (the open and amateur championships in both the U.S. & Britain) in a single calendar year (1930).
Jones is considered one of the five giants of the 1920s American sports scene, along with baseball's Babe Ruth, hockey's Howie Morenz, boxing's Jack Dempsey, football's Red Grange, and tennis player Bill Tilden. He was the first recipient of the AAU's Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. He received two ticker-tape parades in New York City, the first in 1926 and the second in 1930. 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 was successful outside of golf as well. He earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1922, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and played for the golf team. He then earned a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard University in 1924, where he was a member of the Owl Club. After only one year in law school at Emory University, he passed the bar exam.
Jones was married in 1924 to the former Mary Rice Malone. They had three children, Clara, Robert Tyre III, and Mary Ellen. When he retired from golf at age 28, he concentrated on his Atlanta law practice. That same year, 1930, he was honored with the first James E. Sullivan Award, awarded annually by the Amateur Athletic Union to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States. He did in fact turn professional at golf after he retired from competition, in order to accept fees. In addition, he made eighteen instructional films, worked with A.G. Spalding & Co. to develop the first set of matched clubs, co-designed the Augusta National course with Alister MacKenzie, and founded The Masters Tournament, first played at Augusta in March 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.
Jones did play in the Masters every year it was held until 1948, when he was 46 years old. By then, his health had declined to the stage where this was no longer possible. But with his health difficulties, and being past his prime and not competing elsewhere to stay in tournament form, he never truly contended to win the Masters, although his scores were usually respectable. These were largely ceremonial performances, since his main duty was as host of the event. His extraordinary popularity, efforts with the course design, and tournament organization boosted the profile of the Masters significantly. The tournament, jointly run by Jones and Clifford Roberts, made many important innovations which became the norm elsewhere, such as gallery ropes to control the flow of the large crowds, many scoreboards around the course, the use of red / green numbers on those scoreboards to denote under / over par scores, an international field of top players, high-caliber television coverage, and week-long admission passes for patrons, which became extremely hard to obtain. The tournament also sought and welcomed feedback from players, fans, and writers, leading to continual improvement over the years. The Masters gradually evolved to being one of the most respected tournaments in the world, one of the four major championships.
|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 shot deficit||-2 (72-72-73-74=291)||2 strokes||Al Watrous|
|1927||The Open Championship (2)||4 shot lead||-6 (68-72-73-72=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|
It is noteworthy that National Amateur championships were counted as majors until quite recently. Jones' actual major total using the standard in place in his lifetime was 13.
Jones retired after his Grand Slam in 1930, playing only his own tournament, The Masters. As an amateur golfer, he was not eligible to compete in the PGA Championship.
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
R32, R16, QF, SF = Round in which Jones lost in amateur match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.
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 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, The Greatest Player Who Never Lived by J. Michael Veron, and Triumphant Journey: The Saga of Bobby Jones and The Grand Slam of Golf by Richard Miller. Published in 2006, "The Grand Slam" by Mark Frost has received much note as being evocative of Jones' life and times.