Search

THE SILVER ANNIVERSARY OF JONES'S GRAND SLAM

Sept. 12, 1955
Sept. 12, 1955

Table of Contents
Sept. 12, 1955

Events & Discoveries
Spectacle
  • That's the cry that sends bankers, doctors and generals into the saddle for a five-day trek through Old California

  • From 36 states—and lands overseas—come the horsemen known as Los Rancheros Visitadores, an easy-going crew 500 strong that meets once a year in southern California. Riding, eating bulls' heads, or soaking guests, the Rancheros have fun

The Match Race
The Race—Mr. Fitz's Story
Conversation Piece:
Jones's Grand Slam
Keep In The Pink
  • This most common mishap should receive more than casual treatment

Rare Dogs
Tip From The Top
Matchwit*
Acknowledgments
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

THE SILVER ANNIVERSARY OF JONES'S GRAND SLAM

It is the eve of another Amateur and 25 years since the incomparable Bobby completed his sweep of golf's four major crowns. Here, in two parts, is the stirring story

The 55th United States Amateur Golf Championship will get underway in Richmond this Monday on the James River course of the Country Club of Virginia. Harvie Ward, Joe Conrad, Billy Joe Patton, Bill Campbell and all the rest of our current coterie of amateur stars will be there, each with his heart set on winning (for the first time) the most important nonprofessional championship in the world. By the afternoon of the quarter-finals, if the 55th Amateur follows the pattern of its predecessors, a few of these seasoned players will still be in the fight; but most of them will have been unceremoniously eliminated in the early rounds by "complete unknowns"—by teenaged tyros from all over the map with a polish and poise beyond their years, by serious-eyed "club players" of all ages who drive the newspapermen crazy with their deep and genuine lack of even one faintly colorful trait, and by the uprushing new stars (such as Doug Sanders and Hillman Robbins) who, in this fertile land of athletes, continue to spring up annually like the corn in the fields.

This is an article from the Sept. 12, 1955 issue Original Layout

No matter how spectacularly fortunes rise and fall on the banks of the James, this year's Amateur cannot hope to approach in its dramatic content the edition of that championship which took place 25 Septembers ago and which has been vividly alive in everybody's mind this summer of its Silver Anniversary. September 22-27, 1930. The Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pa., on the outskirts of Philadelphia. What a week that was! It is unlikely that any other athletic occasion in this century, not excepting the most furious World Series clashes or the Dempsey-Tunney fights, can honestly be compared with the Amateur of 1930 in the hold it had not only on sports followers but also on persons who did not ordinarily follow sports, and not only on Americans but on people living anything but country-club lives on the other five populated continents.

It wasn't the Amateur by itself, to be sure, that was responsible for all this fervor. Rather, it was that previously that year Robert Tyre Jones Jr., a young amateur of 28 from Atlanta, Ga., had captured the three other traditionally major championships of international golf: in May, the British Amateur at St. Andrews; in June, the British Open at Hoylake; in July, the U.S. Open at Interlachen in Minneapolis. Now it was September, and as the amateurs congregated at Merion and the climactic days drew near, it was everybody's business, that one question: would Bobby be able to carry off the Amateur and so complete his Grand Slam of the four big tourneys, "the impregnable quadrilateral" as George Trevor had called it in a moment of inspiration?

A few great golfers had earlier succeeded in winning two major championships in one year. John Ball, for instance, had taken both the British Amateur and Open in 1890; Harold Hilton, both the British and U.S. Amateurs in 1911; Chick Evans, both our Amateur and Open in 1916; Gene Sarazen, our Open and the PGA (the pros' equivalent of the Amateur) in 1922; Walter Hagen, the British Open and our PGA in 1924. But here was Jones with a chance to reach out and grasp the Amateur, and by doing so to make actual the heretofore fatuous idea that any golfer could ever be good enough to capture in one season all four championships, contested by sturdy fields, spanning four arduous months, held on two continents on four vastly different courses, in all sorts of weather, through all rubs of the green.

Thinking or writing about Jones and 1930 produces in 1955 a happy glow of excitement, but today, of course, we know "how it all came out." On the eve of that Amateur, the general feeling was that Bobby had an excellent chance to reach port safely, but nothing is ever sure in a game like golf. The hoping, the hoping against hope, and the general feeling of intense personal involvement which millions experienced all week long would have led some stranger visiting the United States to deduce that nearly every American was a relative or at least a close personal friend of Bobby Jones's.

In a curious way, that last statement is not too far off the mark. Even at the tender age of 28, Bob had been known and known well to the American sports public for 15 years—ever since the summer of 1916 when he had come up to the same Merion course as a cocky youngster of 14 to see if he could qualify for the Amateur. He had qualified, won his first two matches, and impressed everybody who watched him so incisively that even the terribly temperate Mr. Walter J. Travis had enthused to an inquiring Jones admirer, "Improvement? He can never improve his shots, if that's what you mean. But he will learn a good deal more about playing them."

From that date on, Bob grew up in the full glare of the spotlight, the inescapable lot of a sports star who is so good so early and has, in addition, a personal attractiveness that captivates the public's interest. Sports fans knew all about Jones—how as a petulant, self-critical youngster he could fling a club, after a particularly bad shot, as far and as crisply as anybody in the game; how he had gradually mastered his temper—"the way he mastered everything," as Gene Sarazen put it so simply later on—with Bob's final graduation from adolescence coming after he had "picked up" in disgust on the third round of the 1921 British Open, an inescapable breach of true sportsmanship, as Jones regarded it, which cut deeply into his pride and which he could never forget; how the young man, the Georgia Tech and Harvard student, went through "the seven lean years" from 1916 to 1923, heralded after World War I as the best amateur in the country and as a player proficient enough to beat the pros in the Open, but never quite able to win a big one; how in 1923, so downhearted after his multiple failures that he was considering retiring from competition, he finally burst through in the Open, redeeming a great opportunity he had all but chucked away when he played a magnificent two-iron (from the loose sand at the edge of the rough on the 18th at Inwood) which carried the lagoon before the green, finished six feet from the' flag, and enabled him to defeat Bobby Cruickshank in their play-off for the title; how he went on from that shot to compile an incomparable record (through 1929) of three U.S. Open championships, two British Open championships and four U.S. Amateur championships.

But Jones was much more than just a winning golfer. He was a beautiful golfer. Taking nothing away from his superb contemporaries or the marvelous players who came before and after him, the fluid, almost lazy grace of his swing and the handsome parabola of his shots set off within a spectator, were he golfer or nongolfer, a spark of honest-to-goodness delight the like of which only Harry Vardon and Sam Snead have generated. It was something you didn't forget, either—Jones's shotmaking. In the PGA championship this summer, to cite an oddly relevant incident, Jack Burke (in his match with Middlecoff) played a five-iron to the 34th green which he hit with no apparent effort. The ball was dead on line all the way, kicked up a fleck of turf (like a horse's hoof) when it landed on the green just before the flag, took one bounce and then sat down a few feet beyond the hole. "Jones! He looked just like Jones on that shot!" exclaimed Walter Hagen, who had watched the ball come up from behind the green. "That was just the kind of shot Bobby played time and time again. He'd throw that ball up toward the flag and it wouldn't waver an inch off the line from the moment it left his club. He hit hundreds of shots that looked like they would knock the pin right out of the hole."

When people talked about Jones in the '20s, before they knew it they were half-way into a panegyric. It was and is the easiest thing in the world. To approach the man in the plainest terms, he was and is an exceptional person. Tommy Armour, ransacking his mind for the one adjective that would best get across the meat of Jones's personality, settled at length on considerate. Bob, many of his friends felt, often was too considerate for his own good; he found it difficult, for instance, not to try to find the time for the little things asked of him, like accepting an invitation to play a round with friends when, with a prestige tournament coming up, he probably would have been wiser to have been more selfish with his time and his energy.

He had an excellent sense of humor. His favorite stories were always at his own expense, not because he was aiming at presenting himself in a modest light, but because these incidents really struck his funny bone. He liked to recall a qualifying round in the Open with old Harry Vardon. Bob had looked up on a niblick chip from the edge of a green and had skulled the ball clear across the green and into a bunker. "Mr. Vardon, did you ever see a worse shot than that?" Jones had sputtered in high embarrassment. "No," Vardon had answered, and nothing more. Bob also was something of a phrasemaker. He liked to describe a dangerous shot that only a golfer with real guts could pull off as a shot which required "sheer delicatessen."

As far as golf went, there was only one way to play it for Jones: according to the rules and the spirit of the game. Observing this simple code, he proceeded to set (unintentionally) the highest standard of bona fide sportsmanship of all the great champions of the Golden Age. In the first round of the 1925 Open, he called a penalty stroke on himself, when his ball moved a fraction of an inch in the rough as he was preparing to play an approach. Bobby ultimately finished in a tie for first with Willie Macfarlane, who subsequently beat him in the play-off. The full import of the penalty stroke was then obvious: it had proved to be the difference mathematically between winning the championship outright or not winning it. At the same time, to emphasize the cost of that action is to miss its true meaning. If your ball moves in the rough while you are addressing it, of course you call a penalty stroke. It is simply a part of golf, just like holing a long putt is. If this happens at a critical stretch in the National Open, you cannot rightfully claim that this unfortunate incident deprived you of winning the championship. You had plenty of other holes, 71 of them, in which to build to a winning total. Incurring that penalty was damn tough luck, and that was all you could say about it. Other times—and you knew it—the breaks went for you, and in the long run they evened up.

In victory, Jones never forgot the men who had come close but hadn't won. In his acceptance speeches—and they set the pattern which continues today in American sports—he always spoke of "we," including the other finalist, if it were a match-play event, or the leading contenders, if it were a strokes-play event. Innate good manners prompted this, partially, but it went deeper than that. He meant it. Jones was very clear about his own feelings on just about every occasion. He knew from his own experience how painful it was to come close and finally lose. The least he could do was to let the other fellow share his triumph, not through chivalry, but because that is how you do things.

There was no humbug in Jones. Many years after his retirement, a friend happened to ask him if there had been any spot in his career when he had been annoyed by an action or an attitude on the part of an opponent. "Yes, I remember one time distinctly," Bob said, cocking his head and "looking" a long way back. "In one championship final, my opponent and I were chatting, like you always do, just before we teed off in our match. 'Let's just have a nice friendly game,' he said to me. 'I really don't care who wins. Let's just enjoy ourselves.' Well, that sort of got under my skin because I knew he wanted to win that championship just as much as I did."

Make no mistake about it, you can be both sportsman and competitor, hand in glove. No one wanted to win harder than Bobby Jones did, or drove himself toward his goal with more determination. Without that fire he could never have accomplished the wonders he did. Superior talent takes you only so far in golf, or in any other sport; and the rest you do, or don't do, yourself.

Jones, the model American athlete, makes it difficult for anyone who writes about him because he is the wonderful guy his admirers have claimed him to be in lavish prose and lengthy orations. (That most hardheaded of sportswriters, Paul Gallico, said of Jones: "I have found only one [sports figure] who could stand up in every way as a gentleman as well as a celebrity, a fine, decent human being as well as a newsprint personage, and one who never once since I have known him has let me down in my estimate of him.") By nature he was the least histrionic of persons, but, as occasionally happens, the substance of the man came across unmistakably to the thousands who watched him or merely read about him. As a result, he enjoyed a popularity that was almost Churchillian. Moreover, like very few athletic heroes, he somehow had the native grace to stand up beneath the colossal burden of his fame and to remain himself—an achievement indeed. He happened to come along at the time when sports were beginning to become the big thing that they now are in the lives of so many Americans. It was a fortunate thing he did, for of all our athletic heroes he has probably exerted the most marked and lasting influence on American sports. Of course, he was more than just a golfer—one of those uncommon persons of whom it can truly be said that he would have been first-rate at whatever he attempted. It was golf's luck that he was a golfer.

...And so, if in late September, 1930, when Bobby Jones came to Merion with the Grand Slam in sight, was it any wonder that a whole nation was pulling so hard for him and felt so personally implicated in his welfare? It had been a long, strange season for Jones—1930. In early spring he had broken from his usual practice of bypassing all the tournaments on the professionals' winter circuit; he had entered the Savannah Open (in which he finished second to the up-and-coming Horton Smith) and the Southeastern Open in Augusta (in which he left the field a full 13 strokes in his dust). Bob seemed to be hitting his shots a shade more confidently than ever before, and remarking this, Grantland Rice made the indecently accurate prophecy that Bob might very possibly win two, three, or maybe all four of the major championships that year. Bobby Cruickshank flatly predicted he would sweep them all.

Although he felt deep down inside that this was a possibility if he could be so lucky as to produce his best golf at the right times, Jones himself harbored no such grand ambitions. This was a year when the Walker Cup matches were scheduled for Sandwich, and Bob had his sights set primarily on that competition and the chance it would give him, since it would be carrying him to England, to have another crack at the British Amateur championship, the one major title that had eluded him.

Over to Britain, then. In May, in the Walker Cup match, Bobby won his singles 9 and 8 from Roger Wethered, and he and Doc Willing took their foursome 8 and 7. Bob was captain of the American side and, as such, in charge of determining the lineup. As the U.S. Open champion, he could have justifiably selected himself for the No. 1 slot. In a typical gesture, he placed Jones at No. 2 and accorded the honor of being top man to Harrison "Jimmy" Johnston, our Amateur champion.

On to St. Andrews and the British Amateur, Jones's nemesis tournament. In his two previous attempts in this championship, the grind of grinds in which a golfer must wade through seven rounds of 18-hole matches before reaching the 36-hole final, Bobby had never got close to the luxury of the long route. In 1921, an old codger by the name of Allan Graham had putted him dizzy, 6 and 5. In 1926, he had reached the fifth round and there succumbed 4 and 3 to the two-under-par golf of a Scot named Andrew Jamieson. On his third try, in 1930, to make a long tournament short, Bob finally made it—winning his first match 3 and 2 from a miner from Nottingham named Syd Roper (but only by starting four under par for the first four holes); his second match easily 5 and 3 from Cowan Shankland; his third from Cyril Tolley 1 up on the 19th hole; his fourth from G. O. Watt, 7 and 6; his fifth 1 up over Jimmy Johnston; his sixth 4 and 3 over Eric Fiddian; his semi-final match 1 up over George Voigt; and the final 7 and 6 over Roger Wethered. The scores of these matches are noted because the whole edifice of the Grand Slam depended naturally on Bob's taking the British Amateur, and how awfully close on more than one occasion he had come to not doing it!

Fortunately for lovers of golf, Bob was accompanied to the major tournaments from the beginning to the end of his career by 0. B. Keeler of the Atlanta Journal. O.B.'s assignment was to tell the folks back home how their boy was doing. He ended by telling the world. This is O.B.'s summary of what happened at St. Andrews:

The story of that championship seems to me to confirm or, at any rate, strongly to support a sort of hypothesis that has been forming in the back of my head for years—that golf tournaments are a matter of destiny and that the result is all in the book before ever a shot is hit. Looking back over Bobby's eight matches, you may see crisis after crisis, in those furious encounters with Tolley, Johnston, and Voigt, where the least slip in nerve or skill or plain fortune would have spelled blue ruin to Bobby's dearest ambition. Yet at every crisis he stood up to the shot with something which I can define only as inevitability and performed what was needed with all the certainty of a natural phenomenon.

For example, in the semis, there had been the 12-footer that Bob had holed on the 17th against Voigt when the match hinged on it. To resume Keeler's narrative:

"When I stood up to it," Bobby said, "I had the feeling that something had been taking care of me through two matches I very well might have lost and that it was still taking care of me. I felt that however I struck that putt, it was going down."

And above all there had been that historic tug of war with Tolley:

Bobby was extremely lucky to win that match, and he would be the first to tell you so. Square at the 17th tee, under a sweeping gale, it seemed destined that the argument between the "two most majestic figures of amateur golf" was to be adjusted at the terrible Road Hole, 467 yards around an angle to the right, with the best drive a dangerous crack over Auchterlonie's famous "drying shed."

Both players elected to stay well to the left; the pinch was too tight for any undue risk, with the match square. Tolley was five yards, or such a matter, ahead from the tee and Jones had to guess first on the desperate problem of a second shot to the long, narrow green with the horrid road along the other side.

Bobby took plenty of time while 12,000 spectators stood and suffered. He walked halfway down to the green—it was a distance of about 200 yards, I should say. He stood on a tall mound and considered the situation. I was standing with Dr. Mackenzie, who designed and built the Cypress Point course at Del Monte and other famous courses. We agreed that the most feasible shot was an iron pitched to the right—well to the right—of the diabolical little bunker set right in line with the pin, to swing leftward off the steep slope of the green and roll on toward the pin. So we were surprised when Bobby motioned to the stewards to move the gallery back from the rear of the green, near the 18th tee, which was well to the left of the bunker.

Then he went back and played. It was a bold shot, less obvious than the one Dr. Mackenzie and I had discussed. It was aimed to pitch in the hollow below the back of the green and roll on up, at the worst to be around the 18th tee with a fairly decent chip at the pin.

Bobby undeniably gave the shot a shade too much. I suppose that under pressure as extreme as he then was experiencing a man naturally hits harder than he intends. The shot was perfect in line but it came up to the level of the green on a big bound and not on a roll. It struck among the very spectators Jones had asked to be moved back. It stopped where he had intended it to stop from a roll up the slope. A line from an old romantic novel hopped into my head: "Men call it fate!"

Anyway, and uncompromisingly, it was a break in luck. Tolley now had a vastly increased pressure on him with Jones in a fair position to card a birdie four, and a certain par five. And when the big fellow's iron curled up short of the wicked bunker, I could see nothing but a win for Jones. I felt that no man living could execute so deft a pitch as would clear that bunker and stop anywhere near the hole, cut in that absurdly narrow plateau green with the road just across it. In the road likely—never near the flag, I felt.

Now see how a golfing situation changes. Jones's simple little approach was eight feet from the cup. And Tolley, pitching with the most exquisite delicacy (he told me later it was the best shot he ever played in his life) stopped his ball within two feet of the flag, dead for a birdie four. In one minute, Jones had the hole and inferentially the match in hand. In another minute, Jones was putting for his life; a perilous eight-footer, with his adversary comfortably and convincingly established for a half—or a win—if Bobby missed.

This was another crisis. And down went the putt. Two drives, close to 340 yards down the evening breeze, in front of the home green. Two chips, neither so good. A half in par four. Close play by the American Open champion at the 19th; loose play by the British Amateur champion, whose pitch was far outside and whose approach left him open for the stymie that ensued, and the great bout ended.

Some two weeks later Bob teed off in the British Open over the links of Hoy-lake along the Mersey estuary south of Liverpool. As Keeler viewed the 1930 British Open, at least five contenders played better golf than Jones did—three Americans, Mac Smith, Horton Smith and Leo Diegel; two Englishmen, Archie Compston and Fred Rob-son. Jones won the way that nobody but a solid-core champion ever manages to: in trouble in every round, fighting continually to control his shots and never quite striking his groove, he kept plugging and thinking and working, never giving in to the discouragement of mishitting just about one shot out of four, cashing in unapologetically on each break that came his way. On the last round, which he started a stroke behind Compston, the leader, after manufacturing rounds of 70, 72 and 74, Jones appeared to be a sure winner. Compston had gotten off to a tragically bad start, and Bob was moving along 1 under even 4s playing the 8th. This 8th is a 527-yard par five that can be birdied without too much trouble if a longish hitter follows two good woods with a nice little chip up the slope to the green.

Bob played the two good woods. He then stubbed his 20-yard chip halfway to the green, played a rather know-nothing second chip 10 feet from the hole, went a foot or so by with his first putt and topped off the whole rattling sequence by missing that kick-in putt. So it was a 7 and not a 4. Out in 38 and not in 35—just the encouragement the later-starting challengers like Diegel and Mac Smith needed as they set out after Bobby, and just the disheartening jolt, too, that frequently precedes a front-runner's collapse down the home stretch.

Bobby slipped one over par on each of the two short holes coming in, the 10th and 13th, but he held on. Over the last five holes at Hoylake—wind-whipped holes which are well trapped and measure 511, 443, 532, 419 and 408 yards respectively, as rough a finish as there is in golf—Bobby fought his way home 4-5-4-4-4 against an approximated par of 5-4-5-4-4. 75. A total of 291. For all the valor of the last round rallies by Smith and Diegel, 291 was two shots better than either could do.

A few days later the double champion sailed for home. Two championships won and two to go. Now, for the first time, there was animated talk in every corner of the globe about a possible Grand Slam.

PHOTOJAY B. LEVITONTHE JONES OF 1955, an Atlanta lawyer, stands in his study before the oil painting which depicts the great champion as he looked in 1930, the year in which he scored his Grand Slam.PHOTOTHESE MEDALS are emblematic of Jones's victories in the four major championships in 1930. Reading clockwise from the top: U.S. Open, British Open, British Amateur and U.S. Amateur.FIVE PHOTOS

BOB JONES LOOKS BACK

Bob Jones, who stands with Harry Vardon and Ben Hogan as golf's greatest players, and who for many stands alone and unapproached, was 11 when he scored his first 80, 14 when he entered his first national championship and 28 in 1930 when he climaxed his career with his Grand Slam of the four major championships. This season of the 25th anniversary of that epochal feat, Bob has kindly consented to write some of the thoughts and memories evoked by a selection of photographs covering various stages of his competitive career. Next week's issue will present the second half of this abbreviated album—a group of photographs depicting several of the dramatic peaks of the Grand Slam of 1930 accompanied by more of Jones's eloquent comments.

"This picture was made at Montclair, Mew Jersey in 1918, during the period when I was engaged during school vacations in playing matches for the benefit of the Red Cross during World War 1.1 had the good fortune to play a number of these games with Chick Evans, Jerry Travers, Max Marston, Alexa Stirling, Elaine Rosenthal and quite a few others of our best amateurs and professionals. These matches provided priceless experience for a kid of 15 and 16. I learned lo loosen up my swing a little as the years went by."

"This is the approach to the 72nd green at Winged Foot in 1929, which was followed by a 12-foot putt to He Al Espinosa for the Open, which I won in a play-off. This was a real turning point for me because I think I should never have forgiven myself had I kicked away this championship. In the first round I had recovered from a bad start with an eagle 3 on the 5th and six straight 3s beginning at the 10th, so that I took the lead with a 69. I had been leading the field by three strokes starting the final round and had been playing as well as I knew how, until I got mixed up with some bunkers on the 8th and took 7. I had an unplayable lie on the 15th for another 7, so that this chip and the subsequent putt were all that enabled me to salvage a tie out of what should have been an easy victory."

"The picture above and the one at the right are interesting mainly because they illustrate the evolution of a style. The one above was made during the 1920 Amateur when I was 18, the second in 1930. Even allowing for the fact that I am using a wood in the first picture and an iron in the second, it is quite evident that my swing at 18 was a good bit flatter than in later years. It will be noted that the right shoulder has finished higher in the earlier picture and the right arm is more nearly parallel to the ground. It also appears that the body turn has been decreased as the years passed."

"The 18th green at St. Andrews during my match with Cyril Tolley in the British Amateur Championship. This was one of the most desperately contested matches in all my experience. Here I am playing a running approach through the Valley of Sin, while Andrew Kirkaldy, the famous old Scottish professional, holds the flag. Neither Tolley nor I got too close with our approaches and I had some very uncomfortable moments while he pulled from 12 feet for the match after I had missed from about 15. The match ended on the 19th green where my opponent left himself open for a stymie. This picture shows many landmarks of Old St. Andrews that I love so well—the Station Master's Garden, the D. Anderson Shed, the Swilcan Burn, and the Eden River across the far background."

NEXT WEEK: HOW THE SLAM WAS COMPLETED