- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Dr. Jones's handicap dipped as low as four, and in the two rounds he played at Augusta, he shot 77 and 78, though that was 35 years ago. Asked whom he would call if he wanted to get another crack at the course, he said, "I wouldn't." Both his grandmothers were deeply formal, traditional Southern ladies, and he retains a measure of their instinct for propriety.
Casual, though, is his default mode. On St. Patrick's Day, he spoke at a dinner at the Atlanta Athletic Club. It was a fund-raiser for scholarships connected to Bobby Jones, and it fell on his 111th birthday. During the dessert course (cake with a green layer) a golf ball made the rounds, the one Jones used when he completed the Grand Slam. One man wore a kilt. Many wore suits. Dr. Jones wore a blazer on which both front buttons had been lost to indifference.
Dr. Jones raised three girls and two boys from two marriages, none of them his biological children. One of the boys, Michael, died two years ago of a heart attack. Some years ago the youngest of the five, Melanie, stared at Bobby's primitive hickory-shafted clubs on display in Augusta National's trophy room, where Jones ate many meals, and said, "He won all those tournaments with those? They're just sticks!" Jones despised sticks for golf clubs, but Melanie had it correct. His Grand Slam two-iron looks like a gardening tool from Little House on the Prairie.
Bobby was a natural lefthander forced to write righty as a kid. His cramped signature—Rob't T. Jones, Jr.—was stamped on the back of hundreds of thousands of Spalding clubs, some of which are floating about eBay these days. Hollywood didn't like that stern signature, and when Jones made the 12-part series How I Play Golf, somebody at Warner Brothers affixed a curly, playful Bobby Jones signature to the opening credits. The signature-as-logo on the necks of the $98 shirts in the Bobby Jones clothing line is curlier yet. Between the royalty payments from various books, DVDs, the clothing line and the club line, the Heirs of Bobby Jones (the corporate name) are making enough free money to buy a Lexus every half-decade or so. "We're not rich by any stretch," Dr. Jones said. You can follow the money yourself. When was the last time you saw someone pull out a hybrid stamped with a cursive Bobby Jones on its sole?
The actual Bobby Jones grew up comfortably, lived splendidly and died as a millionaire. (At his death, in 1971, his estate was valued at $1.2 million.) Had he not sold the two New England bottling plants in the 1960s, the family most likely would have vast wealth today. Instead, the golfer's seven grandchildren live in the workaday world. One's a nurse, another an editor, another a dog breeder.
Bobby and his wife, Mary Malone Jones, raised their three children in a mansion called Whitehall on an aptly named Atlanta street called Tuxedo Road. The patriarch watched golf on TV, sometimes with young Bobby4, the volume off as Jones provided his own commentary. It was informed, direct, occasionally profane. He had that move. Dr. Jones recalls that whenever Furman Bisher, a renowned Atlanta sports columnist, would write something Bobby did not like, he'd say, "That damn Furman Bitcher!"
The owners of Whitehall had refined tastes. In their living room sat an expensive, delicately hand-painted commode that Bobby and Mary bought in Paris. One day the champion golfer and mechanical engineer decided to hack away at the piece in an effort to accommodate the wires of an early stereo system. Concluding his summary of this pilot episode of Carpenters Gone Wild, Dr. Jones said, "Mary was so pleased."
He's often witty. Dr. Jones and his wife, Mimi, now have that butchered Parisian piece in their living room in a mini-development in McDonough, a hamlet so far beyond the Atlanta suburbs that you'll know you're close, Dr. Jones likes to say, "when you start hearing the dueling banjos from Deliverance."
Every summer when they were kids, Dr. Jones and his two sisters would leave Massachusetts and spend two or three weeks at steamy Whitehall. The man of the house was already deeply in the grip of syringomyelia, a rare spinal-cord disease that eventually claimed his life. For as long as Bob4 knew his grandfather, his hands were frozen nearly as fists. He drank his coffee through a straw. He had special utensils he could lodge between his palms and fingers, and he needed an assistant just to smoke.
"I would sit with him in the sanctum," Dr. Jones recalled, referring to an enclosed porch on the second floor at Whitehall where Jones ate most of his meals and spent most of his time, "and I'd light his cigarettes for him. Then, because I was pretty ADHD at the time, I'd zone out, looking at yellow birds through a window, whatever it might be. Eventually, I'd hear this guttural sound—earearear—coming from him, like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. He'd have that cigarette, with the filter, just stuck there in his mouth! I'd fall over myself, apologizing, but all he'd say is, 'That's O.K., son.'"