In late June, 1930, a few days after he had captured the British Open Championship after previously winning the British Amateur, Bobby Jones sailed for home. A sizable delegation of his friends from Atlanta met his boat as it made its way into New York harbor. The metropolis joined them in a roaring welcome to the double champion as Mayor Walker led the auto-cade through the ticker tape and down the gulches of lower Manhattan. Bob had himself a brief "rest" and then it was time to head for Minneapolis and the Interlachen Country Club, venue that year of the United States Open.
Everyone now was talking excitedly about the prospect of a Grand Slam. If only Bob could get by the Open, so went the consensus, the U.S. Amateur (scheduled for Merion in late September) would be comparative duck soup. As for Jones, the awareness that he had a fairly good chance of winning all four titles in one year had, of course, now entered his mind, along with many ancient considerations. Try to fulfill your own legitimate ambitions and, if you are an athletic hero, before you know it you are public property and everything becomes painfully complicated. What you like and what you don't like, what you want to do and what you have no desire to do, become inextricably entangled—and you can't have one without the other. If you were Jones, you certainly wanted to win the U.S. Open, and if you won, as you knew, you would get both closer to and farther from the things that really mattered to you. And at what a price! Late one afternoon during that Open, O. B. Keeler of the Atlanta Journal, Bob's devoted Boswell, followed him into the lockerroom at the conclusion of his round. It had been steaming out on the course, the temperature over 100°, the humidity wickedly enervating. Bob—he once lost 18 pounds during the course of a tournament—sat down in a lump on a lockerroom bench and started to unknot his tie. He could make no headway with it. Sweat had made it an unmanageable soaking mass. O. B. finally got hold of a knife and cut the tie off. "When are you going to quit this?" he said to the spent young man of 28. "Pretty soon, I think—and hope," Jones replied limply. "There's no game worth this darned foolishness."
In addition to Jones, a large number of accomplished golfers had their eyes set on winning the 1930 Open: Walter Hagen (past his prime but far from finished), Gene Sarazen, Macdonald Smith, Leo Diegel, Tommy Armour (enjoying his greatest season), Horton Smith, Johnny Farrell, Harry Cooper (still a few years away from his peak), and, to name a few others, Denny Shute, Billy Burke, Craig Wood, Billy Mehlhorn, Johnny Golden and Joe Turnesa. Putting together two excellent rounds on the first two days, then an absolutely wonderful round and a finishing round composed of passages of very sweet and very sour golf, Jones clearly outplayed this strong field. He led off with a steady 71, one under the par for the 6,672-yard course. On his second round, he added a somewhat more erratic 73. This included the famous "lilypad shot" on the 485-yard 9th, where Bob half-topped his fairway wood. The ball skipped like a scaled stone across the surface of the pond, hopped the far bank and finished nicely in front of the green. He chipped up close for an extremely fortuitous birdie.
September 18, 1955
Jones's half-way total of 144 placed him in a tie for second with Harry Cooper, two shots behind Horton Smith. Bob won that tournament with his third round. Striking his most Jonesian form, hitting everything right on the button and all but holing several pitches to the short par fours—this kind of pitch, incidentally, was supposed to be Bob's weakest shot—he was six under for the first 16 holes. He could not keep up this clip on the final two holes, but his 68—the lowest round of the tournament—placed enormous pressure on the other contenders. Hearing about Jones's sub-par streak, they began banging for birdies to stay with him; they forced openings that didn't exist and consequently lost strokes to par. Most of the contenders soared high into the 70s, and their mass ascension gave Jones an almost unoverhaulable lead of five strokes over the next man, Cooper, and a full seven over that golfer who always had to be watched, Mac Smith.
Bob's last round was disconcerting, to say the least, to his swarming gallery of 10,000 admirers who were hoping he would rekindle his hot streak of the morning. On the 3rd, a par three, he took a five. He turned in a safe but pedestrian 38. When he went two over again on the 13th, another par three, a few pangs of alarm filtered through his gallery, for the grapevine reported that Mac Smith, playing behind Bobby, was comfortably stepping along in great style. Bobby pacified their nerves by ripping off a birdie on the 14th, and followed it with a staunch par on the 15th and another birdie on the 16th. Everyone began to breathe easily again and then, on the 17th, for the third time in a single round, Bob blew himself to a five on a par three hole. It was imperative now that he play the 18th at least in par. He collected himself on the tee of that 402-yard par four. He drove well. He smacked a firm approach onto the green some 40 feet from the cup. Then he holed the putt. That ultimate birdie did it. Jones's total of 287 (71-73-68-75) proved to be two strokes better than Mac Smith's (70-75-74-70).
Whew! Three down and the Amateur to go, as if everybody didn't know.
The 1930 Open ended on July 12. The Amateur began on September 22. The long interval between the two championships was necessarily a trying period for Jones. He had the time to think about all contingencies, how much golf he should play to keep his form, how much golf he should not play to keep from going stale, how much rest he should get, and so on and so forth. In addition, there were many moments in which Bob wondered whether or not he would even manage to get to the Amateur. This concern was militated by two narrow escapes he had during this period. "On one occasion, when we were playing at East Lake," he recalled this summer, "we had quit the game on the 12th green because of a severe thunderstorm. While a friend and I were walking in front of the clubhouse under an umbrella, lightning struck the main chimney of the clubhouse and hurtled a large chunk of brick and mortar through our umbrella. A jagged edge of the mass ripped my shirt and put a scratch about six inches long on my right shoulder. A few inches more in my direction would have produced a very serious injury."
BROAD JUMP FOR LIFE
"Later that summer," he continued, "I was going to the Downtown Athletic Club for lunch and was walking along the sidewalk towards the club entrance, when a man behind me yelled, 'Look out, Mister!' I turned to see an automobile mounting the curb, headed precisely in my direction. I performed a broad jump that would have done credit to Jesse Owens and the automobile crashed into the building just where I had jumped from. It turned out to be a driverless car which someone had parked without properly setting the brakes.
"About a week before the tournament, I was attending some ceremonies incidental to the opening of the training camp of the Atlanta Crackers baseball team at Douglas, Georgia, in which I was supposed to be the catcher while the mayor of Atlanta pitched and some other dignitary was to swing the bat. The Atlanta pitcher decided to warm me up. As he prepared to throw the ball, the thought suddenly flashed through my mind that here was a good chance to get a bruised or busted finger. We called off the warmup immediately and I was happy to let the mayor's pitch, which was a bit wild anyway, go to the backstop.
"You may be sure," he added, "that I was careful with razor blades and taking no more chances than I could help with spraining an ankle."
At long last it was mid-September, and the nation leaned forward as Jones and the other amateur stars converged on Merion, outside of Philadelphia. Bob's timing had not been too sharp in his practice rounds in the South, and he continued to work on his game until the day before the first qualifying round, a departure from his customary habit of blowing himself to a full day's rest before walking to the firing line. During the days of his preparation and throughout the tournament, Jones's doings were recorded by an unprecedented number of reporters and photographers. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, for example, detailed a squad of 16 men to cover the championship.
In 1930, the machinery of the Amateur was different from what it is today. The entrants had first to undergo a 36 hole qualifying test at the scene of the championship to determine the 32 low scorers. These qualifiers then went into the match-play rounds—two rounds of 18-hole matches followed by 36-hole matches in the third round, the semifinals and the final. In an 18-hole match, a man who is putting or who is riding a hot streak can often eliminate a basically superior golfer. Matches over this short route had worried Bobby for many seasons, understandably. (In the 1929 Amateur at Pebble Beach, the percentages had finally caught up with Jones, and an unknown and unawed young man from Omaha, Johnny Goodman, had upset him in the first round, 1 up.) Well, the first job was to qualify, and as for the matches—you would get to them when you got to them.
Right off the reel Jones provided a decisive indication that he meant to leave as little as possible to the vagaries of golf as he confronted the opportunity of a lifetime. He not only qualified with plenty to spare, he led the qualifiers with 69-73 for a record-equaling total of 142, mighty fine golf if you know Merion, a course that requires accurate placement of the drive and finesse on your approach shots, and which places at your disposal lots of healthy rough and an abundance of white-faced traps where you can repent at leisure for your sins. The course had been too much for the defending champion, Jimmy Johnston. Five former Amateur champions—Jesse Guilford, Chick Evans, Davidson Herron, Max Marston and Chandler Egan—had also failed to qualify. In the first round, three more "names" fell: Doc Willing, Francis Ouimet and Phil Perkins. Also Johnny Goodman, thus canceling out the possibility of a return match between Jones and Goodman. Then, in the second round, George Voigt and George Von Elm, the two players who were counted on to give Jones his toughest opposition, were upset, Voigt by Charley Seaver and Von Elm by Maurice McCarthy Jr. in that memorable struggle that staggered on through 10 extra holes.
Jones got by those two dangerous rounds in good shape. In his first match against Ross Somerville, the all-around Canadian athlete who was to win the Amateur two seasons later, Bob rushed out in 33 and eventually won 5 and 4. This match was a far more perilous affair than the first score indicated. The turning point, as Bob saw it, was the 7th hole where he canned an eight-footer and Somerville then missed from seven. Jones had been 1 up to that point, and Bob has always felt that had the activity on that green been reversed—Jones missing and Somerville holing—Somerville might have been a hard man to stay with. That afternoon Bob won his match from F. G. Hoblitzel, another Canadian, also by a 5-and-4 margin. This match had a slightly different complexion. Jones was out in 41, a score that ordinarily would have put him deep in trouble. Hoblitzel, though, was playing just as loosely. Then Bob, very much like a pitcher in baseball bearing down, wrapped things up by shooting the first five holes coming in two under even 4s.
AN UNEASY FEELING
In the third round Jones met Fay Coleman, a young Californian. If you were a Jones fan you worried about each successive match and sometimes you worried a little harder than usual. The evening before the Coleman match, if I may interpose a personal note, I had a most uneasy feeling in my bones. There were no grounds for this, really. Coleman had qualified near the top with a total of 145 and had played well in winning his first two matches, but his over-all record didn't make him out to be a Jones-beater. In any event, I remember running from school the noon of the Jones-Coleman match and switching on the radio to catch the news broadcast. (That week they included reports on Jones's progress.) He stood 2 up on Coleman after the morning 18. Not bad, but a larger margin would have been more comforting. The 6 o'clock news flashed the word that Bob had won 6 and 5.
In the semifinals, Bob met Jess Sweetser. Jess was still playing good golf but he was neither the same forceful shotmaker nor the same pugnacious match player who, en route to the Amateur title in 1922, had trounced Jones 8 and 7 in their semifinal set-to. This time Bob won 9 and 8. A comfortable margin indeed, yet there was one stretch early in the match when several other conclusions looked likely. After taking four of the first five holes, Bob had gone into a perplexing lapse. He had lost the 7th by hitting one out-of-bounds. He had dropped the 9th and the 10th by three-putting each green. His lead all but obliterated, Bob had then stepped back into stride again. By lunch he was once more 4 up, definitely on his way.
Finally, the final. If there ever was an assignment in golf, or in sports in general, that no one relished filling, it was to be the other finalist in the 1930 Amateur, the one person standing between Jones and the completion of the Grand Slam. This was the lot that fell to Eugene V. Homans, a gaunt, bespectacled Princeton graduate with the solemn air of a deacon about him even when he was outfitted in plus fours and bright argyle socks. Gene Homans was a very capable golfer and, furthermore, a match player with plenty of fight. For instance, he had pulled out his semifinal round after standing 5 down. Against Jones, try as he did, Homans could never get going, maybe because, despite his efforts to win, he could never escape the discomfiture of the role in which circumstance had cast him.
When the final began, Homans was so nervous that it took him six holes to register his first par. Jones was a little rocky himself. For all of Homans' faltering, Jones stood only 3 up at the end of six. Then both men threw off some of the tension they were under and began to hit their shots. As they made their way over Merion's green acres, they were followed by the largest single gallery in the history of American championship golf—over 18,000 spectators. Homans played the second nine in 37. Jones, moving into an irresistible mood, came in in 33—4-3-4-3-4-3-4-4-4. This brilliant burst placed him 7 up. It was no longer a question if Jones would win but how soon.
When Jones and Homans resumed play after lunch, the huge, ponderous gallery spilled noisily over the course after them. No one wanted to miss the dramatic climax, the actual moment when Bobby, by winning the Amateur, would wrap up his historic Grand Slam. The 18,000 had a while to wait. Bob moved quickly to 8 up, to 9 up, and there he stopped. Beneath the rhythmic pace of his step down the fairways and the frown of concentration that enveloped him as he played his shots, here was a thoroughly exhausted man. His golf began to show it. He three-putted the 25th. He found a bunker on the short 27th. On the 28th, it took him two to recover from a greenside bunker. These errors, however, cost him only one hole, and he stood dormie 8—8 up and 8 holes to play—on the tee of the 29th, the superb 11th hole, a 378-yarder to a small, slightly plateaued green hemmed in on three sides by Baffling Brook. Rousing himself from his tiredness, Jones laced out an accurate drive and dropped a tall pitch nicely on the green, about 20 feet or so short of the cup. Homans was also on in two, at the back of the green. Bobby tapped his approach putt very close to the cup. To keep the match going, Homans had to hole his long one. It was never in. As the ball veered definitely off the line, Gene strode rapidly across the green to be the first to congratulate the winner.
Homans was hardly halfway to Jones when the bodyguard of Marines, which had protected Bobby from the idolatrous thousands all day long, dashed onto the green and formed a cordon around him. It was a good thing they did. Hundreds of spectators were sprinting towards Jones, eager to shake his hand or pound his back or to touch him or merely to shout their congratulations to the weary hero who had always exerted such a magical hold on the nongolfing public and who epitomized for golfers all that was the best and finest in the game. In the background, the other thousands, their ambitions for Jones fulfilled, stood and roared and roared. It was for everyone a moment of heartfelt release that had been building for at least two months or ever since Jones had followed his triumphs in the British Amateur and British Open in May and June with his pivotal victory at Interlachen.
Jones walked with his escort slowly back to the clubhouse, acknowledging as best he could the congratulations poured upon him but, for the most part, overcome with awe himself at what he had succeeded in doing. In the clubhouse, after a talk with his father, he began to digest the reality that the Grand Slam was factually behind him and with it the ever-accumulating strain he had carried for months. When he appeared for the presentation ceremonies, he looked years younger.
Some two months later, Robt. T. Jones Jr. announced his retirement from competitive golf. In the years that lay ahead, Bob played lots of friendly golf but he emerged from his retirement only once a year and then to play in the Masters, the tournament in which he acted as host to his fellow champions and which was played over the Augusta National, the course which he helped to design. As Bernard Darwin has written so beautifully, "Bobby retired at the right time and could say with Charles Lamb, 'I have worked task work and have the rest of the day to myself.' After Tom Cribb had beaten Molineaux for the second time at Thistleton Gap, it was decided that he never need fight again and should bear the title of Champion to the end of his days. I think most golfers in their hearts grant the same privilege to Bobby Jones."