Robert Tyre Jones, called Bobby by his public, Bob by his friends, was in all probability the most extraordinary figure in the history of American sports.
He began winning golf tournaments against grown men when he was 13, but he didn't hit his championship stride until he was 21, and then for seven years he dominated his game as few athletes ever have. "Golf seemed to have been invented just for him to come along and show us how well it could be played," wrote golf historian Charles Price.
From 1923 through '30, Jones won 13 of the 21 national championships he entered in the U.S. and Great Britain. He won five of eight U.S. Amateur titles at a time when that event was considered a major tournament. In eight U.S. Opens he won four times and finished second four times. He won all three of the British Opens he entered in this stretch and one of two British Amateurs. He never missed the cut in any tournament he entered. When Jones didn't win a championship, it was considered an upset. Some tournament directors were known to have engraved his name on their trophies before a single round was played.
During those seven glory years, Jones played in only seven tournaments that were not national championships: two amateur events and five tournaments that would now be considered part of the PGA Tour. He won four of those events. No amateur golfer ever beat him twice in match play—and in Jones's day such superb practitioners as Francis Ouimet, Charles (Chick) Evans and Lawson Little all played as amateurs. And the two leading professionals of the time, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, never won an Open championship in the U.S. or Britain that Jones had also entered.
Using hickory-shafted clubs and relatively dead golf balls that played 30 yards shorter than today's, Jones achieved scores that would be the envy of the best modern shotmakers. In a qualifying round for the 1926 British Open, he played a "perfect" round of 66—33 out, 33 in, 33 shots from tee to green, 33 putts. In 1928 he played 12 straight subpar tournament rounds, only two of which were over 70. That same year he broke four course records in and near Chicago within a week
Jones was as famous as any of the other icons of the so-called Golden Age of Sports—Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Red Grange, Bill Tilden—and he remains the only person to receive two ticker-tape parades down Broadway. Jones's putter, Calamity Jane, and his driver, Jeanie Deans (named for a character in The Heart of Midlothian, by Sir Walter Scott), were themselves better known than most athletes. As handsome as any film star and more charming, Bobby was the Emperor Jones, treated as royalty wherever he went, the boon companion of dukes and duchesses, movie kings and queens.
Although golf gave Jones international renown, he didn't make a nickel out of the game until he retired, for he played only as an amateur. And for all of his enormous success, he actually played about as often as the average weekend hacker. In his entire 14-year career, he played in only 52 tournaments, 23 of which he won. He hated to practice, and he might go three months without touching a club. In all, he averaged no more than 80 rounds a year. And when he did play, it was most often with his father and some of his gregarious pals at East Lake Country Club in his hometown of Atlanta.
At the same time that Jones was effortlessly dominating golf—to the frustration of hardworking professionals—he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and then, demonstrating the breadth of his intellectual curiosity, another degree in English literature from Harvard. Ineligible as a college graduate for athletics at Harvard, he volunteered to be manager of the university's golf team in 1923. When told by embarrassed athletic officials that the team already had a manager, Jones happily accepted the job of assistant manager—this in a year in which he won the U.S. Open. "But how else," explained Jones, "was I to win a crimson H?"
With two college degrees to his credit, Jones entered law school at Emory University, in Atlanta. In the middle of his second year there, he decided to take the Georgia state bar exam, just to see how difficult it was. He passed easily and dropped out of school to join his father's law firm.
Two years later, in 1930, Jones achieved sports immortality by winning, within four months, the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur—the unprecedented and, of course, never equaled Grand Slam of golf. And then, with no worlds left to conquer, Bobby Jones, all of 28 years old, retired from competition to pursue, he said, "other things." These included establishing a successful law practice; making a series of instructional films, with Hollywood stars, that even today are considered classics of the genre; designing the first matched set of flanged irons; founding the Augusta National Golf Club and creating the distinctive tournament that would make it world-famous, the Masters. Jones also wrote extensively and so brilliantly about his game that there seemed little question he could have successfully pursued yet another career, as a man of letters.
Reflecting on his disappointment at losing the U.S. Amateur of 1916, when he was not yet 15, Jones wrote in his book Golf Is My Game: "Yet if I had won, what would have happened next? Not giving myself any the worst of it, I think I was a fairly normal kid of fourteen. But how many of us today can look back at ourselves at that age and be completely proud of the picture? I must admit that I had already become a bit cocky because of my golfing success in play against grown men. Had I won that championship, I should have been Amateur Champion for not only the next twelve months, but, because of the suspension of play for the period of [World War I], for three whole years. I shudder to think what these years might have done to me, not so much to my golf, but in a vastly more important respect, to me as a human being."
Indeed, for those who knew him best, it is as a human being, not as a golfer, that Bobby Jones will be treasured. "Bob had so many great personal qualities, they overshadowed his golf," says his former law partner Eugene Branch. "Counting all that he accomplished and all the attention paid to him, he has to be the most modest person I've ever met."
Even at the peak of his game, Jones would play golf with anyone he met. "He'd go out to East Lake and just pick up a game," says Branch. "He even got me to playing, and I told him it was his only disservice to the game." And after a game Jones would join his companions for convivial rounds of bourbon—or, during Prohibition, corn whiskey—in the clubhouse. He was a man who could sing Puccini arias without a glitch, but he also Applied his strong baritone to bawdy limericks.
His favorite golfing partner was always his father, an exuberant, fun-loving man whom his many friends called the Colonel. Charles Yates, a longtime friend of both Bob's and the Colonel's and a leading amateur golfer in the 1930s, recalls how the Joneses often teamed up to play matches at East Lake against Yates and "a lefthanded Methodist preacher named Pierce Harris, whom Bob just loved. Well, we had what I'd call a historic match one day back in the early 1940s. We got to the 16th hole and the Colonel lands in a trap right in front of the green. Now, the Colonel could cuss with the best of them, and, preacher or no, he's in there hacking away and blistering the air with each swing. He reaches the edge of the green in five, and then he three-putts. You never heard such cussing. Bob, of course, holes out with a birdie three—he had a 64 for the day—so the preacher and I know we've lost. But the Colonel keeps cussing anyway. Finally, the preacher turns to me and says, 'Charlie, we should've known better than to think we could beat such a combination of proficiency and profanity.' "
Bobby Jones was a man of unflagging integrity on the course and off. On four separate occasions in championship play, he called penalties on himself, one of which—when his ball moved almost imperceptibly as his club touched the grass—cost him the 1925 U.S. Open. In his law practice he avoided courtroom trials because he felt his name and reputation gave him an unfair advantage over other lawyers. He answered all of his own mail and was, according to the distinguished golf and tennis writer Herbert Warren Wind, "one of the best letter writers I've read." Jones was unfailingly friendly with visitors to Augusta, and he enjoyed entertaining by the hour at his cabin opposite the 10th tee. He was both amusing and easily amused.
"He had a sly humor," says Branch. "Once I said to him, 'Bob, I know you don't especially like being called Bobby, although you put up with it. How come?' He just smiled and reached into his desk drawer to pull out a letter he had received some years earlier. It was from a third-grader. 'Dear Bobby,' it read, 'when I grow up I want to be an engineer. What do you want to be when you grow up?' "
Unlike today's athletes, who, perhaps not without reason, regard journalists with a mixture of fear and loathing, Jones included them among his best friends: Wind, Price, Grantland Rice, Paul Gallico, Alistair Cooke, Al Laney and, preeminently, Jones's own Boswell, Oscar Bane (O.B.) Keeler of the Atlanta Journal. Jones felt a special kinship with these scriveners, and they, many of them renowned cynics, repaid that brotherly sentiment with unabashed adoration.
"Bob Jones radiated goodness, yet without a smidgen of piety," says Cooke, the ever-popular British-born author, journalist and television personality. "I have met only two other men with that quality. One was a Franciscan monk who worked in the slums of London, and the other was my supervisor in English literature at Cambridge. But I never felt as comfortable with either of them as I did with Bob Jones. And that's because of his wonderful sense of humor. He was so graceful and kind, so modest without ever being diffident. An amazing man."
With the world as it is, such a man could scarcely escape tragedy. Bobby Jones didn't. "As a young man," wrote Wind, "he was able to stand up to just about the best life can offer, which is not easy. And later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst."
Robert Tyre Jones was born on St. Patrick's Day, 1902, in Atlanta, the son of Robert and Clara Jones. He was named after his paternal grandfather, a stern businessman who considered golf and all sports a monumental waste of time. Bob's father's middle initial was P, but, possibly out of affection for the Colonel, Bob always called himself Robert T. Jones Jr. As a child he loved all sports, particularly baseball. But he was, as he described himself in his book Down the Fairway, "an odd-looking youngster. I started out with an over-size head and a spindling body and legs with staring knees, and some serious digestive derangements which caused my parents and six or seven doctors a deal of distress."
Beginning at the age of five, Bobby was stricken in succession with whooping cough, measles and "other juvenile ailments," as he later put it, so his parents removed him for the summer to East Lake, a resort area six miles out of Atlanta, where they hoped the country air would relieve his distress. The Atlanta Athletic Club, founded in 1898, had purchased property in East Lake for a country club in 1904, and when the Jones family moved out there, a new golf course was under construction. The popularity of the game had increased dramatically after the turn of the century, and Bobby's father and mother were both enthusiasts. A friend of theirs gave Bobby a cut-down cleek (two-iron), and he and another boy, Frank Meador, soon developed a game of their own using a red-clay road and a drainage ditch as back-to-back holes.
"It is a matter of general opinion," wrote Jones in Down the Fairway, "that I never made a hole in one until 1927. [Actually] I made this hole several times in one shot, before I was six years old."
He soon became a golf prodigy, winning his first children's tournament at East Lake when he was six. At nine he won the Atlanta Athletic Club Junior Championship over a boy seven years older. At 13 Bobby won an invitational tournament at Roebuck Country Club in Birmingham, in which his father also competed. And a year later, at the Merion Cricket Club outside Philadelphia, came his remarkable performance at the U.S. Amateur—he reached the third round before losing to the defending champion, Bob Gardner. Barely a freshman at Atlanta Tech High, Bobby astonished the fast-growing world of golf. He was a bit astonished himself.
"By this time the golf writers were paying me a good deal of attention, and some of the things they wrote made me feel extremely foolish," he wrote years later. "They wrote about my worn shoe and my dusty pants and my fresh young face and other embarrassing personal attributes.... I never had thought much of my face, for example, and it seemed sort of indelicate thus to expose it in print, not to mention my pants."
Bobby had never taken a golf lesson. He learned all he needed to know by watching the East Lake pro, a dour Scotsman named Stewart Maiden. Bobby copied Maiden's flawless swing, off a 90-degree hip pivot, so faithfully that he and Maiden were often mistaken for each other on the course. Like Maiden, an impatient man, Bobby wasted little time contemplating his shots. He simply walked up to the ball and hit it, wrote Price, "with the nonchalance of a man about to lop off the head of a dandelion." He never understood why others required three hours or more to complete a round of golf when he himself spent no more than nine minutes on any hole.
Ah, but his swing. The British golf writer Bernard Darwin called it "pure poetry." Jones didn't so much strike the ball as sweep his compact body through it with—Darwin again—"an easy grace." The swing was so effortless, in fact, that newsreels of Jones in play look as if they were being run in slow motion. But with this relaxed, long-sweeping stroke he could drive a ball, when he chose to, 300 yards or more. Sam Snead, a legendary big hitter, recalled playing Jones in a friendly match years after Jones's Grand Slam and easily outdriving him on par-4 holes, only to find himself 15 yards in arrears on the long par-5s. Jones didn't attack a golf course in the modern mode; he absorbed it.
Less smooth was the young phenom's temperament. As a teenager Jones was a famous club-flinger and, like his father, tantrum-tosser. His temper reached its zenith in the British Open of 1921 on the hallowed Old Course at St. Andrews. Trailing the leaders by only four strokes at the start of the third round, the 19-year-old Jones shot a dismal 46 on the front nine in atrocious weather and then, in a fury, picked up his ball and tore up his scorecard on the 11th green. It was, he said later, "the most inglorious failure of my golfing life." It was also a turning point. Thereafter, though he may have seethed inwardly—and Jones did suffer from terrible nervous tension in championship matches—he played with all the outward emotion of a man thumbing through a seed catalog.
"It was part of my golfing education to learn that these outbursts, however much they may have offended others, were in fact harmful only to me," he wrote later. "I think I began to realize that the cause was not only partly anger at myself for having missed a simple shot; the other part was a childish effort to make known publicly that such a misplay was not to be tolerated by a player of so much ability. Inevitably, the sense of guilt and shame immediately ensuing would affect my play for an important interval thereafter."
Apparently his play was affected, for although he was already considered the game's greatest shotmaker, Jones did not win a single national championship in his first 10 tries. Then came the historic breakthrough at the U.S. Open in In-wood, N.Y., in the summer of 1923. Jones was 21 and never to be headed. He won the U.S. Amateur in 1924 and '25. In '26 he became the first player to win the British Open and the U.S. Open in the same year, a feat that earned him his first ticker-tape parade. He won the British Open again in '27, as well as the U.S. Amateur. He won the Amateur again in '28 and the U.S. Open in '29. Then came the Slam.
Jones had first considered going for it as early as 1926, but he didn't make concrete plans until '28, when, weary of the strain of competition, he began contemplating retirement. He knew that in 1930 he would be representing the U.S. in the Walker Cup, so his travel expenses to England would be paid, and he would have the luxury of staying there long enough to play in both the British Open and the British Amateur. Jones was not a wealthy man in his playing days (although he was generally thought to be), so money was always a consideration. And, he thought finally, what better way to close out a career than by winning every major tournament in sight?
Naturally, he succeeded, beginning with the British Amateur at St. Andrews, site of his earlier humiliation but his favorite course since winning the British Open there in 1927. Jones had so charmed the British then that they now cheered him as one of their own. "They had never known an American quite like him," said Wind. "He had had such a wonderful education, he seemed at home wherever he went."
"The British considered him the best that America can be," said Cooke.
At St. Andrews, Jones won seven straight 18-hole matches and then defeated Britain's Roger Wethered in the final 36-hole match. Two weeks later he won the British Open at Hoylake by two strokes over Macdonald Smith and Leo Diegel and returned home for his second ticker-tape extravaganza. Exhausted both by travel and the New York celebration, he nevertheless played the U.S. Open at Interlachen in Minnesota in temperatures that reached more than 100°. He was so overheated after the first round that Keeler had to cut off Jones's necktie, whose sweat-soaked knot was impossible to untie. In the second round Jones saved a critical stroke on the 9th hole with his famous "lily pad shot," in which the ball skipped like a stone across a lake and landed safely on the other side. In the third round he spun off six birdies in the first 16 holes. And he became the third man in the history of the Open to break par over 72 holes.
All that remained was the U.S. Amateur at Merion, a championship Jones regarded as the easiest of the four. All he had to do, in fact, was stay alive to win it, but that wasn't easy, for in the space of a week he was nearly struck by lightning while playing a practice round at East Lake and almost hit by a runaway car while heading out to lunch at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
The world press and a gallery of 18,000, at the time the largest in U.S. golf history, watched Jones easily defeat Gene Homans in the 36-hole final round of match play, 8 and 7. And when Homans reached out to shake Jones's hand in congratulations on the 11th green, there was at first an eerie silence and then a demonstration never before seen on a golf course: The crowd surged hysterically toward the Grand Slam champion. A cordon of 50 marines was needed to escort Jones safely to the clubhouse some 600 yards away. That walk was, according to The New York Times, "the most triumphant journey any man ever travelled in sport."
Jones had topped off his improbable career with the greatest feat in the history of his game. An AP poll in 1950 called the Slam "the Supreme Athletic Achievement of the Century." And for Jones that was enough. In golf, he wrote, "nothing more remained to be done."
He would step back from his fame and devote himself to supporting his wife, Mary, and their three children: Bob III and daughters Clara and Mary Ellen.
In November 1930, Jones signed a $101,000 contract with Warner Brothers to make 12 golf instructional short subjects (with an option, soon picked up, to do six more) with some of that studio's most popular stars, among them W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joe E. Brown. The actors, apparently eager to get some tips from the master, agreed to work without pay and without scripts. Director George Marshall, himself a golf enthusiast, would simply outline a scenario, and Jones and friends would ad-lib the dialogue. Each film ends with Jones demonstrating the use of specific clubs.
In one of the reels Brown bets Robinson that he can beat the world's greatest golfer simply by having Jones play Brown's shots from tee to green while he plays Jones's. "Let's see how you do hitting my ball," the comedian challenges a willing Jones. Brown, of course, loses as Jones gives an amazing demonstration of hitting trouble shots out of the rough and even out of the water. In all of these films Jones, with his easy Georgia drawl, seems more at ease than the actors.
Hastily conceived and inexpensively produced, these films were nonetheless box-office smashes, witnessed by more than 25 million moviegoers in 1931 and '32. Frank Tatum, then attending John Burroughs Junior High in Los Angeles, remembers watching the filming of The Brassie, in which Jones plays opposite, among others, Loretta Young. "I was absolutely mesmerized," recalls Tatum, who went on to become the USGA president from 1978 to '79. "I watched Jones hit shot after shot onto a green more than 240 yards away. No second takes were necessary, because he never missed. I had never seen such grace. He was a role model for me."
Jones may have been retired as a competitor, but he was hardly finished with the game. He had been interested in the design of golf clubs since his mechanical engineering days at Georgia Tech. Now he put that interest to use, designing that first matched set of flanged irons for A.G. Spalding & Bros, in 1932. "By making the blades more compact, with a thicker top line, and providing a flange sole on the back of the head, we succeeded in bringing the center of gravity of the head more nearly behind the center of the striking surface, or 'sweet spot,' " Jones wrote.
He had another, somewhat more ambitious dream. He wanted to fashion for himself and his golfing friends a perfect course—one that, in his words, "would give pleasure to the greatest number of players without respect to their capabilities." And on the site of a moribund nursery in Augusta, 151 miles southeast of Atlanta, he found land that, he said, "had been lying here for years waiting for someone to lay a golf course upon it."
With the help of his friend Clifford Roberts, a Wall Street investment broker, and others, Jones arranged for the purchase of this lush and forested property. He hired the world-famous English golf architect Alister Mackenzie to help design the dream course. They started work in 1931. Jones hit shots to determine the length and shape of the fairways, and Mackenzie prepared the blueprints. The course was completed in 1933. Jones and Roberts called it the Augusta National. Each hole was named after a flowering plant or tree, and the course was, indeed, a thing of great natural beauty.
In 1934 the new club held its first tournament for qualified amateurs and professionals. Jones called it the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, but Roberts, a stubborn man, insisted on a loftier designation—the Masters. Jones would have none of such presumption. The Masters? It was a title, he said, "rather born of immodesty." Jones resisted the name until 1939, by which time, to his mild displeasure, no one called his tournament anything but the Masters.
As the host and drawing card, Jones was obliged to step out of retirement at least once a year to play in the Masters. Although he displayed flashes of the old brilliance, he soon realized that he had lost his touch. As he stepped to the 1st tee in the inaugural Masters, he observed that his hands were trembling and that he was experiencing "the familiar unpleasant vacant sensation in my stomach." Still, he said, "I had become accustomed to these feelings and had learned actually to welcome them, because they usually meant that I was to play good golf."
He parred the first three holes but was troubled by an unfamiliar jerk, as he called it, in his putting stroke. On the 5th tee he was distracted by the whir of a movie camera and shanked his drive into the woods. "At that very instant I realized that this return to competition was not going to be too much fun," he would write. "I realized, too, that I simply had not the desire nor the willingness to take the punishment necessary to compete in that kind of company. I think I realized, too, that whatever part I might have in the Masters Tournament from then on would not be as a serious contender."
Jones finished that opening round with a 76, then improved to a 74 and played the last two rounds in 72. He came in 13th, the highest he would place in the 12 Masters he played. And yet every year he drew by far the largest galleries, even when he fell out of contention early in the tournament. Jones was flattered but dismayed by the attention, and Roberts was highly agitated by a fandom and press that preferred the company of an aging celebrity to that of rising young stars such as Byron Nelson and Jimmy Demaret. When Roberts complained to Alan Gould of the AP that excessive coverage of Jones was detracting from the high purposes of the tournament, Gould replied, "Look, Cliff, why don't you run the tournament and let me write about it? Bob Jones makes more news missing a putt than anyone else in the field does holing a brassie."
The Masters was discontinued during World War II, and Jones, though 40 years old, married, a father and classified 4-F because of varicose veins in his legs, nevertheless managed to enlist in the Army Air Corps and win a commission as an intelligence officer. He served for a time in England under the command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, later a close friend. After serving briefly on the front lines at Normandy, Jones was mustered out as a lieutenant colonel. At last the Jones family had a legitimate colonel.
Augusta National was refurbished after the war, and the cottage overlooking the 10th tee was built for Jones, originally to protect his privacy and allow him an opportunity to entertain friends. In the end it would be his home away from home.
In the 1948 Masters, Jones's last as a competitor, he experienced considerable pain in his right shoulder, and his right hand felt numb. He had played with pain before—in fact, since 1926 he had endured recurring spasms in his back and cricks in his neck.
In the months after the '48 Masters the pain and atrophy on his right side increased alarmingly. And that November, Jones underwent surgery at Emory University Hospital to remove abnormal bone growths on three of his cervical vertebrae. It was an operation that could well have left him paralyzed. After the surgery Jones could still walk, but only with increasing pain.
Two years later a second operation was performed to relieve damage to his upper spine. It too failed to halt his deterioration. Then, in July 1956, Jones was examined at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City by Dr. Houston Merritt, dean of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and chairman of its department of neurology. Merritt concluded that Jones was suffering from a rare disease of the nervous system called syringomyelia, cause and cure unknown.
Syringomyelia, like the more common amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), causes progressive paralysis. Like ALS, it leaves the brain unaffected, so the victim is always aware of his diminishing capacities. Unlike ALS, syringomyelia is not fatal, but the patient usually dies of the disease's side effects.
Only Jones's family and a few close friends knew the true nature of his ailment. He was content to let the world at large believe he was suffering from some form of arthritis. As the disease gained command, Jones went from using a cane to leg braces and finally, after much resistance, to a wheelchair.
But he never gave in to the suffering. He reported to his law office every day. He wrote his books. At Augusta he entertained visitors in his cottage with drinks and reminiscences, not missing a Masters until the very end. When someone asked him if he missed playing golf, Jones would laugh and say, "Just think, I'll never again have to worry about a three-foot putt." He amazed guests with his good humor. After one high-spirited visit to the Augusta cottage, golf writer Al Laney turned to Wind and, shaking his head in disbelief, asked, "How on earth does he do it?"
When British writer Pat Ward-Thomas foolishly asked the shrunken and crippled Jones, "How are you, Bob?" Jones cheerfully replied, "Well, Pat, I have my heart, my lungs and my so-called brain. We play it as it lies."
Once, Jones's old friend Yates asked him if he would mind autographing a few of his books. "Sure, Charlie, but don't give me too many," Jones replied. "These hands don't work too well." Jones's hands had become, in fact, little more than claws; he could sign only by using a pen attached to a rubber ball. Yates was embarrassed. "Oh, Bob, I didn't mean for you to sign them personally. I thought that Jean [Jones's private secretary, Jean Marshall] was authorized to copy your signature." Jones gave Yates a look of reprimand. "Oh, no, Charlie," he said. "That wouldn't be proper."
Jones smoked about two packs of cigarettes a day almost to the end, employing a special holder and steadfastly saying, "I've got to give these things up some day." He attended banquets, gave speeches, went to parties, sipped martinis and tried as much as possible to lead an ordinary life. One of his last acts, in November 1971, was to dictate a letter to Robert K. Howse, then chairman of the USGA's championship committee, requesting that a U.S. Open be scheduled for the Atlanta Athletic Club's new course north of the city, even though, Jones wrote, "I am not likely to take much part in a golf tournament in 1975." The request was granted, and the 1976 Open was held at the A.A.C.
Bobby Jones died in his sleep at his Atlanta home on Dec. 18, 1971. By then his disease had left him paralyzed from the chest down and weighing less than 90 pounds, but it did not kill him; he died of an aneurysm. He was buried at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta with only his immediate family present. At his request his tombstone reads simply ROBERT TYRE JONES, JR. BORN 1902. DIED 1971.
Jones had always had a special relationship with the town of St. Andrews. After his death a memorial service was held for him there, and today many of his golfing treasures are on display at the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. Years earlier, in 1958, the town had conferred on him its highest honor, naming him a freeman of the Royal Burgh; he was the first American so honored since Benjamin Franklin in 1759. Jones, visibly moved by the ceremony, responded, as always, extemporaneously: "I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St. Andrews and I would still have had a rich and full life." And then he recalled an incident that had touched him deeply.
In 1936 Jones and a party of friends were staying in Scotland on their way to the Olympic Games in Berlin. Jones could not resist playing at least one round at the Old Course, so his group stopped off at St. Andrews. To his astonishment, word of his arrival had leaked out, and a crowd of 2,000 or more appeared on the 1st tee to catch a glimpse of him. Jones had been retired for six years and, by his own admission, "had been playing dreadful golf." Fearing that the crowd had come in hopes of seeing the Bobby Jones they remembered, he said to himself as he approached the 1st tee, "This is a terrible thing to do to my friends."
But his tee shot was long and true. He parred the 1st hole and birdied three of the next five as the adoring crowd increased to nearly 4,000. Jones felt a familiar rush of emotion. He knew that at least this one time, he could bring back the old magic. He strode the nearly sacred course with authority, "like an archbishop at a parish picnic," wrote Price.
At the 8th hole, a 178-yard par-3 with the green tucked behind a bunker, Jones, exhilarated by the crowd and the unexpected restoration of his game, determined to go for broke rather than play safe. He snatched a four-iron from his bag, teed up the ball and hit a shot that cleared the bunker and rolled not six feet from the flag. As the crowd cheered, Jones's caddie, a young man of no more than 20, stared at him in frank amazement. He said nothing for a moment as Jones, near tears himself, replaced the club in his bag. And then the caddie could hold his tongue no longer.
"Aye, you're a wonder, sir," he whispered. "A blooming wonder."