March 17

This Day in History

Sports

Mar 17, 1902:

Bobby Jones is born

On March 17, 1902, Robert Tyre Jones, Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia. Jones, the first great American golfer, was a hero of the so-called "Golden Age of Sports" in America along with baseball player Babe Ruth, boxer Jack Dempsey, tennis player Bill Tilden and football player Red Grange.

Bobby Jones had the picture-perfect swing of every golfer’s dreams, despite never having taken a lesson. He modeled his swing after that of Stewart Maiden, a Scottish golfer who was the golf professional at the Atlanta Club. Jones would watch Maiden play, then run home and copy his swing to the best of his ability. It worked: Jones was said to have shot a 70 for 18 holes by the age of 12. At 14, he won his first of five U.S. Amateur Championships at the Merion Cricket Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where, 14 years later, he would win the Grand Slam, his greatest triumph.

Jones’ 1930 Grand Slam--winning the U.S. Open, British Open, U.S. Amateur and British Amateur in the same year--was the first in golf history. The four events took place over a five-month period, with the U.S. Amateur coming last. In the U.S. Amateur final, Jones defeated Gene Homans in head-to-head matchplay format. On the final hole, Jones landed a long putt at the edge of the cup with his famous rusty putter, Calamity Jane. Homans rushed his final putt and walked toward Jones to shake his hand, acknowledging defeat. Understanding the significance of the historic moment, the crowd of 18,000 that was surrounding the green and standing in the fairway rushed toward Jones--it took a squadron of Marines to lead Jones and Homas to safety.

Jones retired from golf at the age of 29, shortly after winning the Grand Slam. In 1934, he founded the Augusta National Golf Club, and that same year was among the founders of a new tournament called The Masters. As amateur play became less common, the Masters replaced the U.S. Amateur in the Grand Slam. Today, a Grand Slam consists of winning the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship. Unlike the wealthy golf superstars of today, Jones never turned professional. In fact, he did not earn any money from golf until he began making golf films after his retirement.

Over the course of his career, Bobby Jones won four U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three British Opens and one British Amateur. His total of 15 major tournaments wasn’t surpassed until Jack Nicklaus won his 16th major in 1980.

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