Golf Great Bobby Jones  by Rosemary McKittrick

Photo courtesy of PBA Galleries.

Golf great Bobby Jones said he never won a major championship until he learned to play golf against something instead of against somebody.  That something was par. It took years and lots of heartache for Jones to learn the lesson.

“It (championship golf) 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.” 
— Bobby Jones

It was a way of being on the golf course that allowed him to stay focused, serious, and away from the gallery and his opponents. It helped quiet him.      

From the first day Jones showed up on the championship stage in 1916 as the 14-year-old sensation from Dixie he wowed them.  Here was a true child prodigy.

One of the few regrets Jones had about his competitive golf career was around watching himself give up huge leads only to pull it out far less easily than he thought he should have done.

Jones said Ben Hogan didn’t have the problem.  Hogan was always good at finishing the job he said.  It was like hitting pure golf shots was an expression of who Hogan was on the planet like an artist or composer.  It was a golfing intelligence that translated into pure art and one which Jones admired.  

Even so, Jones had it all:  a sweet full swing, a nice feel in his fingers, perfect hand- action and he never took a golf lesson. Here’s the paradox.  Even though Jones was more talented than most amateurs his temper tantrums on the golf course got in the way.  

He rarely extended much compassion to himself.  

Jones was the chief critic of Bobby Jones.  He would be on the course getting more and more upset and playing less and less effectively, notorious for throwing golf clubs at helpless elms.

Amazing how critical genius can be of itself.

In the final of the 1919 Amateur against Davy Herron Jones was three down with seven holes to go as he readied himself to play the 12th at Oakmont.  At the same moment an official started to screech out directions to the gallery through his megaphone.  Jones missed the shot and got so upset he never got back into the match.   Stressed out, he lost as much as 18 pounds during any given tournament.

Even with all of his emotional turmoil Bobby Jones turned out to be the most successful amateur golfer to ever compete on the national and international circuit.

Between 1923 and 1930 Jones entered 20 major championships and won 13 of them finishing up with the Grand Slam — the United States Open, British Open, and the United States Amateur and British Amateur championships. 
He made his living as an attorney and played golf part-time. He retired at age 28 and came out of retirement in 1934 to play in the Masters on an exhibition basis through 1948.

“It (championship golf) is something like a cage,” Jones said. “First you are expected to get into it and then you are expected to stay there.  But of course, nobody can stay there." 

On Feb. 27, PBA Galleries, San Francisco, featured a selection of Bobby Jones Items in its Golf auction.  

Bobby Jones

Book, “Golf is My Game” first edition; pictorial jacket; Doubleday, 1960;  $540.

Color Print; signed and inscribed from Jones; published by the USGA in limited edition in 1954;  $1,020.  

Presentation Album; “The Masters Tournament” National Golf Club, 1952; $1,560.   

Program; “Thirty-third National Open Golf Championship” Jones won defeating Al Espinosa in 36-hole playoff; Winged Foot Golf Club, 1929;  $3,000.

Silver Print; Jones in full swing; earliest known surviving original photograph of Jones; matted and framed; taken Aug. 17, 1916; at age 14; 6 ¾ inches by 4 ½ inches;  $4,800.  


Rosemary McKittrick is a storyteller.  For 26 years she has brought the world of collecting to life in her column.  Her website is a mother lode of information about art, antiques and collectibles.  Rosemary received her education in the trenches working as a professional appraiser.

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