Bobby Jones (1902 - 1971)
Born Atlanta, Georgia, Jones is remembered as the epitome of golfing talent. Only Jack Nicklaus can challenge him as the greatest golfer in the history of the game.
Jones, the son of a lawyer, was born into a well to do family who had a summer house near the East Lakes GC , Atlanta. The young Jones played there from the age of 5 and soon demonstrated a natural talent. He became junior club champion when he was just 9. He never had a formal lesson yet his swing was so smooth and powerful that professionals would later emulate it.
At the turn of the century, the Majors were considered to be the British and US Opens and Amateur Championships. Jones played his first major tournament, the US Amateur, when he was 14 and finished in the top 10. However, it as not until 1923 that he won his first Major, the US Open. By the time he retired from competitive golf in 1930, Jones won the Open 3 times, the British Amateur once, the US Open 4 times and the US Amateur 4 times. He is the only golfer to have won all the Majors in a single year, 1930. In all he won 13 national championships in 8 years. In addition he played in every Walker Cup since it's inauguration in 1922 until retirement.
His talent was all the more unusual because he was not physically strong and had a nervous disposition. He chained smoked on the course, shied away from the gallery and sometimes couldn't eat during competition time.
Most people would imagine that such achievements would have necessitated a full time commitment to practise. However, Jones only devoted 3 months of every year to golf. The remaining time was spent acquiring first class honours degrees in Law, English Literature and Mechanical Engineering - all from different universities. When he retired he set up his own law practice in Atlanta.
Jones continued his involvement in golf after retiring. He made instructional films and contributed articles to golf magazines. He designed Augusta National and created the US Masters Championship in collaboration. However Jones cites playing the old course St Andrews as his most rewarding golfing experience. In recognition of his contribution to golf and the Open Championship, the R&A awarded him honorary membership in 1956. He was later made a freeman of St Andrews.
Unfortunately in 1958, Jones became wheelchair bound due a spinal disease. When he died, a memorial service was held in his honour at St Andrews. His portrait hangs proudly in the R&A clubhouse. The USGA Museum has a room dedicated to his memory.
Jones won everything in golf and then he won it again. His career was short yet hugely successful. No one has achieved so much in such a short career. On that basis, he can be considered the greatest golfer ever. In addition, he competed only as an amateur and therefore demonstrated an unadulterated love for the game. Even today he sets the standard by which the greats are judged.