Saturday, October 4, 2008

Golf Legends - Bobby Jones

Image: Painted portrait of Bobby Jones at Hoylake

You may as well blame a man for not robbing a bank”- Bobby Jones

That was the famous line that exemplified Bobby Jones’ great sportsmanship, a quality for which he would also be remembered, other than the fact that he was perhaps the best golfer before the Open Era. This happened in the 1925 U.S. Open when he called a two stroke penalty for causing the ball to move when no one else noticed to it. When praised for his act, his response to the praise was the above line. The U.S.G.A has named the Sportsmanship award after him.

He still remains the only golfer to have achieved the Grand Slam in golf, winning all the four major championships in the year 1930, which at that time included the U.S. Open, the British Open and the two amateur championships. No one really thought it was possible except for Bobby Cruickshank a golfer from Scotland who early in the year bet $500 that Jones would win all the four majors. He got 120-1 odds on that. By the end of the year he was richer by $ 60,000. Of course it was a real pity that Bobby Jones decided to retire from competitive golf at the age of 28. A degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and one in English Literature from Harvard meant he was a very accomplished man. The greatest tragedy of it all was the fact that Golf was just a part time activity for him, something to which he only devoted a few months in a year.

The fact that he was a child prodigy who started winning events from the time he was 6 hardly helped his cause. Through most of his teenage years he failed to captivate the imagination of the golfing world and that is when the many stories of his famed temper started doing the rounds. Legend has it that he managed to control his temper after a championship in 1921 where he was paired with Gene Sarazen and the two bet against each other’s temper. Bobby Jones never threw a club through the round and did not have to let go of the $10 note, the amount of the wager. Not till he was 21, did he make the first big splash by winning the U.S. Open that started his period of domination which finally culminated with the Grand Slam in 1930 after which he curiously chose to retire from active golf.

His tryst with the British Open was an interesting one. He withdrew halfway through his first appearance at St Andrews in 1921, expressed his dislike for the Old course and thus incurred the wrath of the locals. He didn’t even bother to play in the Open championship the next few years. He only played the Open three times after that and won it on all three occasions.

But retiring from active golf did not mean that his contribution to golf had finished. He designed the Augusta National golf course along with Alistair Mckensie and founded the most prestigious Golf tournament, the Augusta Masters. His instruction manuals became a rage and still many young golfers around the world religiously follow his tips. A gem that I picked up from the lot, truly describes why he was such a great golfer-:

“The secret of golf is to turn three shots into two”

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