"About a week before the tournament, I was attending some ceremonies incidental to the opening of the training camp of the Atlanta Crackers baseball team at Douglas, Georgia, in which I was supposed to be the catcher while the mayor of Atlanta pitched and some other dignitary was to swing the bat. The Atlanta pitcher decided to warm me up. As he prepared to throw the ball, the thought suddenly flashed through my mind that here was a good chance to get a bruised or busted finger. We called off the warmup immediately and I was happy to let the mayor's pitch, which was a bit wild anyway, go to the backstop.
"You may be sure," he added, "that I was careful with razor blades and taking no more chances than I could help with spraining an ankle."
At long last it was mid-September, and the nation leaned forward as Jones and the other amateur stars converged on Merion, outside of Philadelphia. Bob's timing had not been too sharp in his practice rounds in the South, and he continued to work on his game until the day before the first qualifying round, a departure from his customary habit of blowing himself to a full day's rest before walking to the firing line. During the days of his preparation and throughout the tournament, Jones's doings were recorded by an unprecedented number of reporters and photographers. The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, for example, detailed a squad of 16 men to cover the championship.
In 1930, the machinery of the Amateur was different from what it is today. The entrants had first to undergo a 36 hole qualifying test at the scene of the championship to determine the 32 low scorers. These qualifiers then went into the match-play rounds—two rounds of 18-hole matches followed by 36-hole matches in the third round, the semifinals and the final. In an 18-hole match, a man who is putting or who is riding a hot streak can often eliminate a basically superior golfer. Matches over this short route had worried Bobby for many seasons, understandably. (In the 1929 Amateur at Pebble Beach, the percentages had finally caught up with Jones, and an unknown and unawed young man from Omaha, Johnny Goodman, had upset him in the first round, 1 up.) Well, the first job was to qualify, and as for the matches—you would get to them when you got to them.
Right off the reel Jones provided a decisive indication that he meant to leave as little as possible to the vagaries of golf as he confronted the opportunity of a lifetime. He not only qualified with plenty to spare, he led the qualifiers with 69-73 for a record-equaling total of 142, mighty fine golf if you know Merion, a course that requires accurate placement of the drive and finesse on your approach shots, and which places at your disposal lots of healthy rough and an abundance of white-faced traps where you can repent at leisure for your sins. The course had been too much for the defending champion, Jimmy Johnston. Five former Amateur champions—Jesse Guilford, Chick Evans, Davidson Herron, Max Marston and Chandler Egan—had also failed to qualify. In the first round, three more "names" fell: Doc Willing, Francis Ouimet and Phil Perkins. Also Johnny Goodman, thus canceling out the possibility of a return match between Jones and Goodman. Then, in the second round, George Voigt and George Von Elm, the two players who were counted on to give Jones his toughest opposition, were upset, Voigt by Charley Seaver and Von Elm by Maurice McCarthy Jr. in that memorable struggle that staggered on through 10 extra holes.
Jones got by those two dangerous rounds in good shape. In his first match against Ross Somerville, the all-around Canadian athlete who was to win the Amateur two seasons later, Bob rushed out in 33 and eventually won 5 and 4. This match was a far more perilous affair than the first score indicated. The turning point, as Bob saw it, was the 7th hole where he canned an eight-footer and Somerville then missed from seven. Jones had been 1 up to that point, and Bob has always felt that had the activity on that green been reversed—Jones missing and Somerville holing—Somerville might have been a hard man to stay with. That afternoon Bob won his match from F. G. Hoblitzel, another Canadian, also by a 5-and-4 margin. This match had a slightly different complexion. Jones was out in 41, a score that ordinarily would have put him deep in trouble. Hoblitzel, though, was playing just as loosely. Then Bob, very much like a pitcher in baseball bearing down, wrapped things up by shooting the first five holes coming in two under even 4s.
AN UNEASY FEELING
In the third round Jones met Fay Coleman, a young Californian. If you were a Jones fan you worried about each successive match and sometimes you worried a little harder than usual. The evening before the Coleman match, if I may interpose a personal note, I had a most uneasy feeling in my bones. There were no grounds for this, really. Coleman had qualified near the top with a total of 145 and had played well in winning his first two matches, but his over-all record didn't make him out to be a Jones-beater. In any event, I remember running from school the noon of the Jones-Coleman match and switching on the radio to catch the news broadcast. (That week they included reports on Jones's progress.) He stood 2 up on Coleman after the morning 18. Not bad, but a larger margin would have been more comforting. The 6 o'clock news flashed the word that Bob had won 6 and 5.
In the semifinals, Bob met Jess Sweetser. Jess was still playing good golf but he was neither the same forceful shotmaker nor the same pugnacious match player who, en route to the Amateur title in 1922, had trounced Jones 8 and 7 in their semifinal set-to. This time Bob won 9 and 8. A comfortable margin indeed, yet there was one stretch early in the match when several other conclusions looked likely. After taking four of the first five holes, Bob had gone into a perplexing lapse. He had lost the 7th by hitting one out-of-bounds. He had dropped the 9th and the 10th by three-putting each green. His lead all but obliterated, Bob had then stepped back into stride again. By lunch he was once more 4 up, definitely on his way.
Finally, the final. If there ever was an assignment in golf, or in sports in general, that no one relished filling, it was to be the other finalist in the 1930 Amateur, the one person standing between Jones and the completion of the Grand Slam. This was the lot that fell to Eugene V. Homans, a gaunt, bespectacled Princeton graduate with the solemn air of a deacon about him even when he was outfitted in plus fours and bright argyle socks. Gene Homans was a very capable golfer and, furthermore, a match player with plenty of fight. For instance, he had pulled out his semifinal round after standing 5 down. Against Jones, try as he did, Homans could never get going, maybe because, despite his efforts to win, he could never escape the discomfiture of the role in which circumstance had cast him.