World’s Best Amateur
This is a story about a young boy, born in 1902, who had everything he ever wanted growing up in Atlanta, Georgia. He never caddied to earn money like other poor kids, who later became future hall of famers, because his dad was a lawyer. In fact, the only reason he picked up a golf club at age five was under a doctor’s recommendation to strengthen his body due to poor health. He became a child prodigy and at age six, he won his first tournament, competing against other rich six year olds.
Tyre became a living legend during his career. He never turned pro and was eventually inducted into the World Golf Hall Of Fame. To add to his superstar amateur status, he founded Augusta National Golf Club and the Master Championship Tournament.
At age 14 he played extremely well in the U.S. Amateur Open, and later that year won the Georgia State Amateur Championship at the Capital City Golf Club in Brookhaven. In 1919, at the age of seventeen, he won the Canadian Amateur Tournament, representing the U.S. He followed that up by winning the same tournament again the following year.
In 1920, at the age of eighteen, he qualified to play in his first U.S. Open and was paired with the legendary Harry Vardon; following that accomplishment with victories in the U.S. Southern Open in 1920 and 1922.
Who was this Hall of Famer? Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones Jr. was on his way to becoming the best golfer in the world, but yet he had no desire to turn pro. In 1923, he won his first U.S. Open and from that point on, until he retired from competitive golf in 1930 (at age 28) he won thirteen major championships. During that time period, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a successful lawyer and played golf on a part-time basis as an amateur for fun and relaxation.
He once tried to explain his desire to remain an amateur and was quoted as saying that he saw professional (championship) golf as a cage. “You are expected to get in the cage and stay there, but nobody can do that.”
It was obvious that Jones wanted his freedom as a man and a golfer, and playing golf only for money and to please golf fans was not for him. His last year of competitive golf was 1930, when he won the Pre-Masters Grand Slam (during the early years of golf, amateur tournaments were considered as a “majors”) to close out his career, but not before making a wager on himself with British bookmakers.
The odds of an amateur winning the U.S. Open, the British Open, the U.S. Amateur Open and the British Amateur Open were 50-1 and after he won all four titles, he collected $60,000 on his bet.
Jones was a rich, successful lawyer, but also made large amounts of money as a golf instructor in Hollywood, doing golf instruction films and as a golf equipment designer. But his greatest accomplishment was still ahead of him. In late 1930, he helped found and design the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia, which later led to his co-founding the annual Masters Championship Tournament.
Bobby Jones died in 1971 and was inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He will always be remembered as a golf legend and Father of the Masters.
19th Hole Bobby Jones Trivia:
- In the 1920s, his celebrity, as a golfer, rivaled that of Babe Ruth.
- Jones is the only athlete to have two ticker tape parades in New York (1926, 1930) in his honor.
- The birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, Scotland loved him. Only two men have been named “Freemen of the City of St. Andrews”: Bobby Jones in 1958 and Benjamin Franklin in 1759.
- Besides a law degree, Bobby Jones also had a mechanical engineering degree and a degree in English literature.
- His gravesite in Atlanta, Georgia has a putting green nearby and each year golf fans leave hundreds of golf balls near his tombstone.
- During WWII, Jones allowed the U.S. government to graze cattle on Augusta Golf Course to support the war effort.
- Bobby Jones was voted by the board of directors of Augusta National Golf Course as president in perpetuity.