Tuesday, September 29, 2009
An argument can be made that Bobby Jones is the greatest golfer who ever lived. But there can be no doubt that Jones is the greatest part-time golfer who ever lived. Because Jones usually only played golf for about three months of the year, traveling to the biggest tournaments during the summer.
Jones was born into a well-to-do family in Atlanta. But he was, according to bobbyjones.com, "such a sickly child that he was unable to eat solid food until he was five years old."
The family bought a house on East Lake Country Club and Jones' health improved as he got into sports, including golf. Jones never had formal lessons, but developed his swing by studying the East Lake pro.
He began winning tournaments at age 6, and by age 14 Jones was playing in national championships. Jones' career is sometimes divided into two segments, the "Seven Lean Years" and the "Seven Fat Years."
The lean years were from ages 14 to 21, the fat years from ages 21 to 28. Jones was a prodigy, and playing in national championships at a young age, his fame grew. Yet he rarely won anything of significance. At the 1921 British Open, frustrated with his play, he picked up his ball and walked off the course. His temper was well-known and there were many club-throwing incidents.
But when Jones finally broke through by winning the 1923 U.S. Open, the fat years began. From 1923 to 1930, Jones played in 21 national championships ... and won 13 of them. His brilliance culminated in 1930 when he won the Grand Slam of the time: the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur all in the same year.
And then, at age 28, Jones retired from competitive golf. In 1931, Jones started working on the first golf instructional videos, movie shorts entitled "How I Play Golf" (compare prices) that played in theaters. He helped design the first-ever set of matched clubs. He practiced law. He founded Augusta National and the Masters.
In 1948 Jones was diagnosed with a rare disease of the central nervous system and never played golf again. He spent most of his later years in a wheelchair, but continued to host the Masters. He died in 1971 at the age of 69.
Bobby Jones was among the first class of inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.