Bobby Jones competed only as an amateur during the 1920’s and 30’s and is most famous for his Grand Slam, winning the four major championships of his era. He was instrumental in the design and promotion of The US Masters at Augusta National and with Warner Brothers produced a series of instructional golf films. The man was a golfing god in his day – so much so, it surprised me to read he converted to Catholicism a week before his death. BBC journalist and friend Alistair Cooke wrote:
What we are left with in the end is a forever young, good-looking Southerner, who, to the great good fortune of people who saw him, happened to play the great game with more magic and more grace than anyone before or since.
Surely this man, so graceful and well-known across the world, would have some links with Australian golf?
My first search for Bobby Jones was lame to say the least. A Google search led me to a map of Kooralbyn. A small southern Queensland town, home of the Kooralbyn Golf Club. and the only Australian street named after Jones: Bobby Jones Court. I was discovering that Bobby Jones lived in an era where world travel and communication was far more difficult than it is now. It’s hard enough to get Tiger Woods to have anything to do with Australian golf, why would I find anything to do with Bobby Jones Down Under?
I took a look through Australian newspaper archives and it says something about how well known Bobby Jones was by the amount of information I found. There were many articles on Jones winning his grand slam tournaments and the similarities to Tiger Woods started to become apparent. Here’s how one article from the “Northern Territory Times” described his US Amateur victory in 1930:
Friday 3 October 1930 Bobby Jones American Golf robot defeated Eugene Homans New York by eight and seven thus winning the United States Amateur Golf Championship and completing an unparalleled record of four major titles.
A robot! I wondered if this was a typo but it seems not – the man was a machine and was winning everything at the time in the sort of fashion no one had seen before. Sound familiar?
“America Takes Golf Seriously” was the title of an article from The Canberra Times in 1929 which seemed to hint at the shift in world golf and the impact Bobby Jones was having:
Thursday 8 August 1929 Dr. Lee Brown, well-known amateur golfer, who returned to Sydney from a trip to America today, estimates the golf of Bobby Jones and other leading golfers to be three strokes a round better than the highest standard in Australia. “Americans make a business of golf,” he added. “Strict training is carried on by leading amateurs as well as professionals.”
Strict training for golf? Who would’ve thought?!
After Jones retired from tournament golf there was a proposal to stage a great golf carnival in Melbourne it’s centenary year. An article in Brisbane’s Courier-Mail suggested both Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen should be invited to Australia to play for the 5000 pounds in prize money set aside for the event:
Saturday 30 September 1933 …The Centenary Golf would sadly lack its colour and attraction without these two champions of champions. If not playing in the competitive side they should be induced to come for exhibition games.
Bobby Jones is the world’s best golfer, and one of the most modest and likeable of individuals. Most notable in its absence is the word “ego” where Bobby is concerned. He is liked by everyone wherever he goes.
He sounds like quite a guy, but “induced”? Sorry? Is this article suggesting that American golfers should be compensated somehow by traveling to play golf in Australia?
Sadly, Bobby Jones never did make it to Australia despite the inducements. It would have been nice to have seen the great golfer grace our shores at least for one trip. A trip which would have been etched into Australian golf history and provide an easy story for this Australian golf writer.
Thankfully, we have greater ways of inducing the world’s best golfer to the great southern land these days. Golf writers in 80 years time will be thankful for that, let me tell you.