SI Vault
Herbert Warren Wind
September 19, 1955
Twenty-five years ago, Bobby Jones, the all-conquering Atlantan, returned from his victories in Britain and completed his historic sweep of golf's four major championships by winning the United States Open and Amateur
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 19, 1955

The Silver Anniversary Of Jones's Grand Slam

Twenty-five years ago, Bobby Jones, the all-conquering Atlantan, returned from his victories in Britain and completed his historic sweep of golf's four major championships by winning the United States Open and Amateur

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

In late June, 1930, a few days after he had captured the British Open Championship after previously winning the British Amateur, Bobby Jones sailed for home. A sizable delegation of his friends from Atlanta met his boat as it made its way into New York harbor. The metropolis joined them in a roaring welcome to the double champion as Mayor Walker led the auto-cade through the ticker tape and down the gulches of lower Manhattan. Bob had himself a brief "rest" and then it was time to head for Minneapolis and the Interlachen Country Club, venue that year of the United States Open.

Everyone now was talking excitedly about the prospect of a Grand Slam. If only Bob could get by the Open, so went the consensus, the U.S. Amateur (scheduled for Merion in late September) would be comparative duck soup. As for Jones, the awareness that he had a fairly good chance of winning all four titles in one year had, of course, now entered his mind, along with many ancient considerations. Try to fulfill your own legitimate ambitions and, if you are an athletic hero, before you know it you are public property and everything becomes painfully complicated. What you like and what you don't like, what you want to do and what you have no desire to do, become inextricably entangled—and you can't have one without the other. If you were Jones, you certainly wanted to win the U.S. Open, and if you won, as you knew, you would get both closer to and farther from the things that really mattered to you. And at what a price! Late one afternoon during that Open, O. B. Keeler of the Atlanta Journal, Bob's devoted Boswell, followed him into the lockerroom at the conclusion of his round. It had been steaming out on the course, the temperature over 100�, the humidity wickedly enervating. Bob—he once lost 18 pounds during the course of a tournament—sat down in a lump on a lockerroom bench and started to unknot his tie. He could make no headway with it. Sweat had made it an unmanageable soaking mass. O. B. finally got hold of a knife and cut the tie off. "When are you going to quit this?" he said to the spent young man of 28. "Pretty soon, I think—and hope," Jones replied limply. "There's no game worth this darned foolishness."


In addition to Jones, a large number of accomplished golfers had their eyes set on winning the 1930 Open: Walter Hagen (past his prime but far from finished), Gene Sarazen, Macdonald Smith, Leo Diegel, Tommy Armour (enjoying his greatest season), Horton Smith, Johnny Farrell, Harry Cooper (still a few years away from his peak), and, to name a few others, Denny Shute, Billy Burke, Craig Wood, Billy Mehlhorn, Johnny Golden and Joe Turnesa. Putting together two excellent rounds on the first two days, then an absolutely wonderful round and a finishing round composed of passages of very sweet and very sour golf, Jones clearly outplayed this strong field. He led off with a steady 71, one under the par for the 6,672-yard course. On his second round, he added a somewhat more erratic 73. This included the famous "lilypad shot" on the 485-yard 9th, where Bob half-topped his fairway wood. The ball skipped like a scaled stone across the surface of the pond, hopped the far bank and finished nicely in front of the green. He chipped up close for an extremely fortuitous birdie.

Jones's half-way total of 144 placed him in a tie for second with Harry Cooper, two shots behind Horton Smith. Bob won that tournament with his third round. Striking his most Jonesian form, hitting everything right on the button and all but holing several pitches to the short par fours—this kind of pitch, incidentally, was supposed to be Bob's weakest shot—he was six under for the first 16 holes. He could not keep up this clip on the final two holes, but his 68—the lowest round of the tournament—placed enormous pressure on the other contenders. Hearing about Jones's sub-par streak, they began banging for birdies to stay with him; they forced openings that didn't exist and consequently lost strokes to par. Most of the contenders soared high into the 70s, and their mass ascension gave Jones an almost unoverhaulable lead of five strokes over the next man, Cooper, and a full seven over that golfer who always had to be watched, Mac Smith.

Bob's last round was disconcerting, to say the least, to his swarming gallery of 10,000 admirers who were hoping he would rekindle his hot streak of the morning. On the 3rd, a par three, he took a five. He turned in a safe but pedestrian 38. When he went two over again on the 13th, another par three, a few pangs of alarm filtered through his gallery, for the grapevine reported that Mac Smith, playing behind Bobby, was comfortably stepping along in great style. Bobby pacified their nerves by ripping off a birdie on the 14th, and followed it with a staunch par on the 15th and another birdie on the 16th. Everyone began to breathe easily again and then, on the 17th, for the third time in a single round, Bob blew himself to a five on a par three hole. It was imperative now that he play the 18th at least in par. He collected himself on the tee of that 402-yard par four. He drove well. He smacked a firm approach onto the green some 40 feet from the cup. Then he holed the putt. That ultimate birdie did it. Jones's total of 287 (71-73-68-75) proved to be two strokes better than Mac Smith's (70-75-74-70).

Whew! Three down and the Amateur to go, as if everybody didn't know.

The 1930 Open ended on July 12. The Amateur began on September 22. The long interval between the two championships was necessarily a trying period for Jones. He had the time to think about all contingencies, how much golf he should play to keep his form, how much golf he should not play to keep from going stale, how much rest he should get, and so on and so forth. In addition, there were many moments in which Bob wondered whether or not he would even manage to get to the Amateur. This concern was militated by two narrow escapes he had during this period. "On one occasion, when we were playing at East Lake," he recalled this summer, "we had quit the game on the 12th green because of a severe thunderstorm. While a friend and I were walking in front of the clubhouse under an umbrella, lightning struck the main chimney of the clubhouse and hurtled a large chunk of brick and mortar through our umbrella. A jagged edge of the mass ripped my shirt and put a scratch about six inches long on my right shoulder. A few inches more in my direction would have produced a very serious injury."


"Later that summer," he continued, "I was going to the Downtown Athletic Club for lunch and was walking along the sidewalk towards the club entrance, when a man behind me yelled, 'Look out, Mister!' I turned to see an automobile mounting the curb, headed precisely in my direction. I performed a broad jump that would have done credit to Jesse Owens and the automobile crashed into the building just where I had jumped from. It turned out to be a driverless car which someone had parked without properly setting the brakes.

Continue Story
1 2 3
Related Topics
Eugene Homans 1 0 0
Golf 5247 0 148
Atlanta 781 0 8
Fay Coleman 0 0 0
Bobby Jones 143 0 0