Better than the pros
By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com
"All I did was hear Jones, all I did was hear major championships, and from the time I was an amateur, that's what I prepared for," says Jack Nicklaus, winner of 20 majors, about Bobby Jones on ESPN's SportsCentury show (Friday, March 12, 10 p.m. ET). Jones, the only winner of golf's Grand Slam, was voted No. 44 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.
Sept. 27, 1930 -- With victories in three majors this year, Jones sought to complete the Grand Slam in the U.S. Amateur at the Merion Cricket Club, outside Philadelphia. In the tournament's first two days, Jones won the qualifying medal with a 69-73 -- 142.
In match play, one bad round (or a hot one by an opponent) can knock out even the best golfer. But Jones, already a four-time U.S. Amateur champion, wasn't to be denied. Over the next three days he won two 18-hole match contests, each by 5-4, and then, in 36-hole matches, registered a 6-and-5 victory in the quarterfinals and 9-8 triumph in the semifinals.
For the 36-hole final, a large crowd (18,000) came to watch if Jones could make history against Gene Homans. Jones led by seven holes after the morning round, shooting a brilliant 33 on the back nine, and increased the lead to nine after four holes in the afternoon.
At the 11th hole (the 29th of the match), Jones closed out the match, 8-7. A contingent of U.S. Marines prevented America's latest hero from being swamped by hundreds of admiring fans.
While Jones, being an amateur, collected no money from winning the Slam, five friends from Atlanta won $500 each, having received odds of 50-1 from Lloyd's in Great Britain.
ODDS AND ENDS
Jones won a remarkable 13 majors in the last 21 he competed in (1923-30). He was 4-for-8 at the U.S. Open, 5-of-8 at the U.S. Amateur, 3-for-3 at the British Open and 1-for-2 at the British Amateur.
During this span, he also finished second in three U.S. Opens, including twice in 36-hole playoffs by a stroke (1925 and 1928). He led Willie MacFarlane by four strokes with nine holes to go in 1925, but lost when he bogeyed the final hole. In the first round of that tournament, Jones called a penalty stroke on himself when his ball moved a fraction of an inch as his iron grazed the grass.
Before that, from the ages of 14 through 20 (1916-22), Jones was winless in 10 majors (five U.S. Amateurs, three U.S. Opens, one British Open and one British Amateur).
In 1930, Jones won the first Sullivan Award winner as the top amateur athlete in the U.S.
After passing the exam and being admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1928, he joined his father's law firm.
After retiring from competitive golf, Jones was paid $101,000 by Warner Brothers in 1931 for making 12 one-reel golf films entitled "How I Play Golf." He received $55,200 in 1933 for making six more one-reel golf films entitled "How To Break 90." Including royalties, it was reported he earned about $250,000 from the serials.
In the early 1930s, Jones conceived and helped designed the Augusta National Golf Club. It was a very private course, built for Jones and his friends. National was his refuge. "I like the human race as a tribe, but I prefer it in small doses," he once said.
It wasn't until 1975, three-plus years after Jones' death, that an African-American played in the Masters. Lee Elder was invited after he won the Monsanto Open in 1974. Said black golfer Charlie Sifford: "Bobby Jones was a man, he was a prejudiced man, a man who would never accept the black man to play golf in that tournament (the Masters) on his golf course as long as he's living."
Despite being in much pain because of syringomyelia (a rare spinal-cord disorder), Jones returned to St. Andrews in 1958 and was treated like a returning hero. The Royal Burgh of St. Andrews made Jones a Freeman of the Burgh, an honor that had been bestowed to only one other American, Ben Franklin.