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Jones' Slam gave him perfect time to wind up career

February 20, 2012 - 6:27 pm
By John Boyette |

In 1930, Bobby Jones put together one of golf's greatest seasons.

Then he announced his retirement from competition, bought some land in Augusta and the rest is history.

The Masters Tournament traces its evolution directly to Jones winning the Grand Slam in 1930. Without a victory in all four of the majors available to him - the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs - who knows whether he would have retired at age 28? And if he did keep playing, would the building of his dream course, Augusta National Golf Club, have ever taken place?

Those questions are now moot, but 75 years ago it wasn't that simple. Jones had been a child prodigy, competing in his first national competition at 14, but it took him a few years to experience success. When he found the breakthrough win in 1923, Jones quickly became the man to beat, and enormous pressure was put on him by his adoring public to win every time he teed it up.

That Jones was able to pull off the feat showed just how special he was. A few other golfers have been able to put together great years - Ben Hogan's three majors in 1953, Tiger Woods winning a slam of his own in 2001-02, and Byron Nelson's 11-tournament win streak come to mind - but no one has ever swept all four majors in a calendar year.

"What Jones did stands light years apart from Nelson. Nelson did not set out to win 11 tournaments in a row; it simply happened,'' said Sidney L. Matthew, a Florida attorney who is recognized as a Jones expert. "Jones actually called his shot. Hogan, of course, won the three but his legs couldn't take him to the PGA. What he did was extraordinary, but he didn't win it all.''

GOING INTO 1930, Jones knew he would have an opportunity to accomplish a special year. He knew he would be playing in the Walker Cup matches that year for the U.S. team and that he would be able to play in both the British Amateur and British Open. And with the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur set for later that year, he could play in all four of golf's main events.

The 1930 campaign didn't start as Jones had hoped. He came in second to good friend Horton Smith, who would go on to win the first Masters. It would be the only loss for Jones that year.

Before he left for Great Britain, Jones played in the Southeastern Open in Augusta. He won by a convincing 13 strokes.

Jones and the Americans won the Walker Cup matches with ease, and then Jones won the Golf Illustrated Gold Vase in nearby Sunningdale.

The one major missing from Jones' rsum was the British Amateur, and it was first up in 1930. It was held at the Old Course at St. Andrews, a course Jones once left in a fit of anger but had come to love. He flirted with some close calls in the early rounds before defeating Roger Wethered, 7 and 6 in the 36-hole finale.

Next up was the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake. After rounds of 70 and 72, Jones had the lead by one shot. He won the title with a final-round 75, edging Leo Diegel and Macdonald Smith by two shots. He was the first man to pull off the British sweep since John Ball did it in 1890.

After making the journey back home to the United States, Jones traveled to Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota for the U.S. Open. He stayed near the lead through two rounds, then opened a five-shot advantage with 68 in the third round. His final-round 75 did not prevent him from winning his fourth U.S. Open title and the third leg of his Grand Slam mission.

AFTER A LOT of competitive golf in a relatively short time, Jones had to wait two months between the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur.

As luck would have it, the final leg of the Grand Slam took place at Merion Cricket Club, located outside Philadelphia.

The course was the scene for Jones' first national event, the U.S. Amateur in 1916, and his first major triumph, the U.S. Amateur in 1923.

Jones won medalist honors in qualifying with rounds of 69 and 73. He won his first three matches by convincing margins, then he knocked off Jess Sweetser, 9 and 8 in the semifinals.

Jones met Eugene Homans in the final, which was contested over 36 holes. Jones built a commanding lead and closed out Homans on the 11th hole of the second 18 for an 8 and 7 victory. The huge crowd rushed the green, and a detachment of Marines had to guard Jones from the throng.

The Grand Slam - also labeled the Impregnable Quadrilateral - was finally complete.

And so was Jones' playing career. Barely two months after his historic triumph at Merion, he wrote a letter to the U.S. Golf Association announcing his retirement.

Less than a year later, Jones and some associates purchased a former nursery in Augusta and set out to build his dream course.

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or john.boyette@augustachronicle.com.

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