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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,439

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This is the grave of Bobby Jones.

Born in 1902 in Atlanta, Jones was a pretty sickly kid. He started playing golf on a doctor’s advice to get some exercise. His father was a wealthy lawyer and a good golfer himself and so the money wasn’t an issue. Jones, as is well known, proved to be more than a bit of a natural at the game. He won a children’s tournament at the age of six. and by the time he was a teenager, he was a prodigy. He actually entertained World War I troops in Europe with his golfing skills, even though he was 16 years old. He was already winning big tournaments at this time. But when the English golfer J. Douglas Edgar moved to Atlanta to become a club pro, he took on Jones as a student and the kid’s game went to another level, as Edgar was already one of the great golfers of the era.

Jones first competed in the U.S. Open in 1920 and he won his first Open in 1923. He would win four U.S. Opens before 1930. He also won a lot of amateur titles because….he wouldn’t turned pro. Nope. He went into the law too. For him, golf was just a game, a side activity. The law, that was the stable profession. He actually trained initially as a mechanical engineer, going to college at Georgia Tech for this. He then got a literature degree from Harvard. Really, he could do anything he wanted, but the law in the end seemed easiest, so he went to Emory for law school, passed the bar after three semesters so dropped out, and began to practice at daddy’s firm in between tournaments.

Oh yeah, the golf. In 1930, Jones won the first Grand Slam. The tournaments were not the same today–they were the Amateur Championship, the Open Championship, the U.S. Open, and the U.S. Amateur. He also bet on himself to do this and won $60,000 on his 50-1 odds. Not bad. He finally did turn pro after this, later in 1930, but then quickly retired from competitive golf. He would show at tournaments here and there, but he got sick of the full time life. Instead, he decided it would be more fun to design golf courses. He helped found the Augusta National Golf Club and then the Masters, held there since 1934. He played in that most of the time for several years, but only as an exhibition performer. He mostly practiced the law, designed courses, appeared in various early sound films about golf, and in World War II, was in the U.S. Army Air Corps. The Army wanted to use him for exhibitions, but he wasn’t interested in that. He wanted real service and was involved in intelligence and spent two months on the front lines after D-Day interrogating prisoners. He reached the rank of lieutenant colonel shortly before the war ended.

Unfortunately, Jones’ health was terrible. He was a very heavy smoker, which was part of it. He never played again after 1948. That year, he also was diagnosed with syringomyelia, which is a cyst that forms in your spinal cord that eventually paralyzes you. Sounds horrible. Plenty of pain involved in that too. So he was in a wheelchair in his last years. He died in 1971, at the age of 69.

This post is a bit short because I am not a big golf person, but you all go for it and fill the gaps. I was not able to easily find much about Jones’ racial attitudes, but given that he was a Georgia man of the early 20th century and was also the founder of the golf club that came to epitomize the sport’s commitment to white supremacy, I think I have a pretty good idea here.

Bobby Jones is buried in Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, Georgia.

If you would like this series to visit other golfers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Bobby Jones was among the first class of the World Golf Hall of Fame, in 1974. Also inducted in that year were Walter Hagen, buried in Southfield, Michigan, and Ben Hogan, buried in Fort Worth, Texas. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

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