THE GHOST OF BOBBY JONES SENT HIS REGRETS BY TELEGRAM ...
"It was weird," I told Dr. Kline at our weekly session. "The doorbell rang at midnight. I looked out the peephole, and there was a kid in a Western Union uniform on the front step with big wet snowflakes falling and a motorcycle parked at the curb."
Dr. Kline asked to see the telegram.
"I didn't think to bring it," I said. "Next time."
He gave me a tight-lipped smile and reached for his prescription pad.
I'll be the first to admit that I was under a lot of stress. My New York editors had been pressing me for years to "do Jones." They said the public was tired of greenkeeper ghosts and apparitions with muttonchop whiskers who won at Prestwick in the gaslight era. "Jones is the gold standard," they said. "Get Jones or get lost."
It did me no good to explain that Robert Tyre Jones Jr. is the shyest of golf ghosts. I thought I had him cornered once, on the Lake Shore Limited between Chicago and New York, but the ghost in the Pullman compartment turned out to be his friend and mentor, the sportswriter O.B. Keeler. Another time I caught a glimpse of a ghost I thought was Jones—a golfer with a shining aura crossing the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews—but that proved to be the ghost of St. Francis of Assisi, a mid-handicapper at best.
Anyway, I decided that I would make one last effort to reach out to Jones. I flew to Augusta in late February and checked into the Partridge Inn. When night fell, I threw on a jacket and cap and drove to the Augusta National Golf Club. The guard in the gatehouse recognized me and waved me in, yelling "Boo!" as I rolled by. (Everybody's a comedian.)
The clubhouse was lit up and the parking lot was packed, but I found a spot under a tree. I walked boldly through the front door and past the reception desk, through the crowded Trophy Room (where I once interviewed the ghost of Augusta National chairman Clifford Roberts), out the doors onto the veranda, across the lawn and out to the 10th tee. There was no moon. I could barely make out the tops of the pines against the coal-black sky.
I thrust my hands in my jacket pockets and waited. An hour passed, then another. I walked in little circles and did deep knee bends to keep warm. The clubhouse lights beckoned and the aroma of grilled steaks tested my resolve, but I maintained my vigil. Voices and laughter came from the Eisenhower and Butler cabins, and a single light burned in a window of the Jones cabin, where the great man had lived while performing his duties as cofounder and president of Augusta National.