The story of Bobby Jones and Royal Lytham

By Martin DavisJuly 16, 2012, 10:55 pm

Golf is fortunate to have great venues for the Opens – St. Andrews, Muirfield and Carnoustie in Great Britain; Merion, Pebble Beach, Winged Foot and Oakmont in the United States. They are sacred ground.

But in the British Isles one site seems under-appreciated for the greatness that took place there – Royal Lytham and St. Annes, the site of this year’s Open Championship. 

Perhaps Lytham doesn’t receive its just due because it’s located in England and not in Scotland, or for the reason that the compact layout is only 7,086 yards long, or because that the front nine begins with a par-3 hole. Whatever the reason, it certainly isn’t due to the spectacular play that has taken place over its links land, especially in the first Open Championship contested at Lytham in 1926. 

It all started in grand fashion with Bobby Jones’ dazzling victory. But it almost never came to be. It’s a wonderful story.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jones did not come from a wealthy family, so travel to play in the famous British championships was restricted mostly to those years where he was selected to play on the U.S. Walker Cup team. Typically, the U.S. team would come to the U.K. to play in the Walker Cup – with the travel bill footed by the U.S. Golf Association – and also play in the British Amateur; sometimes the players would add the British Open.

Jones played in the first international team match between the U.S. and Great Britain in 1921, an informal affair at Hoylake won by the U.S. He then played in the British Amateur the next day and several weeks later, played in the Open at St. Andrews. He came to Britain again in 1926 as a Walker Cup team member and played in the British Amateur scheduled just prior to the Walker Cup.

 “Jeannie Deans”

Although Jones had won the U.S. Open in 1923 and the U.S. Amateur in 1924 and 1925, he was eliminated in the sixth round of the British Amateur at Muirfield by unknown Andrew Jamieson. In the Walker Cup at St. Andrews, he had two dominating wins – the first, a 4-and-3 victory in the foursomes while partnered with Watts Gunn, over burly Cyril Tolley, Britain’s best amateur, and partner Jamieson; the second, a thorough thrashing of Tolley by the lopsided margin of 12-and-11 in the singles. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Jones’ fine play gave a hint of great things to come.

Scheduled to return home after the Walker Cup, Jones had a change of heart and entered the Open Championship at Royal Lytham. However, due to the heightened interest in the Open, the R&A instituted a series of sectional qualifying tournaments for the first time. Jones chose the southern one, at Sunningdale, not far from his favorite hotel in London, and perhaps more to the point, the club where his favorite club maker, Jack White, was affiliated.

On the eve of the first qualifying round, White delivered a new driver to Jones who promptly named it “Jeannie Deans,” after novelist Sir Walter Scott’s heroine. It was a match made in heaven as Jones’ results with his spanking-new driver would make an indelible impact on the golf world over the next five years.

Jones, with “Jeannie Deans” in his bag, shot a first round of 66 in the first round of the qualifier. In fact, it was a perfectly symmetrical round – it featured 33 strokes out and 33 strokes in, 33 putts and 33 other shots, not a two nor a five on his scorecard. One well-respected writer even referred to his round of 66 as the “perfect round of golf.”

In the days when sub-70 rounds were rare, Jones followed with a 68, winning the qualifying medal by seven strokes.

Jones’ Open Championship at Royal Lytham

In his first round in the Open, Jones was four shots behind leader Walter Hagen’s 68; in the second round, he added another even-par 72, leaving him tied with professional “Wild” Bill Mehlhorn at 144. 

Paired with American professional Al Watrous in the double-round finale on the third day, Jones shot a 73 to Watrous’ 69, leaving “Wee Bobby” two behind the leader Watrous with the fourth round to go. 

But a funny incident intervened at the lunch break. After the morning third round, Jones decided not to go back to the hurly-burly of the clubhouse for lunch, but rather go into town for a quieter meal before the fourth round. On his return, the gatekeeper demanded to see Jones’ ticket. Jones proceeded to show his competitor’s badge, but that was not enough for the overly officious gentleman who steadfastly refused Jones entry. Ever resourceful, Jones went to a nearby ticket booth and bought a spectator’s ticket, thus becoming the only person ever to have to buy a ticket to gain entrance to a major championship so could get back into the course to try and win.

In the fourth round, Jones putted erratically, but was still two back with five to play. He parred 14 and 15, as Watrous bogeyed each. All even on 16, the co-leaders each parred the hole.

On 17, Watrous’ drive split the fairway, while Jones hooked his tee shot into a gourse-strewn sandy area – not quite the formal bunker it is today – on the left side of the fairway where it doglegs to the left about 175 yards from the green. It was not a good tee shot, especially under the circumstances, but what was about to happen is the thing grand legends and great reputations are made of. It would electrify the golf world on both sides of the Atlantic.

“… the greatest shot in the history of British golf.”

First to play, Watrous – feeling the pressure of being in contention for a major championship – hit a weak shot to the front edge of the green. Jones, faced with a semi-blind shot off loose sand to a rock-hard green, selected a mashie – about a strong 5-iron by today’s standards. Jones picked the ball cleanly off the sand, lifted it over the dunes and onto the green, just inside Watrous’s ball. All who witnessed it recognized it as perhaps the best shot they’d ever seen. 

One Scottish writer later called Jones’ mashie “… the greatest shot in the history of British golf.”

Watrous nervously three-putted 17 for a bogey, to Jones’ two putts for his par. On 18, Watrous three-putted once again to bogey, as Jones parred the last to win his first British Open with a then record 291 total. 

As a result, Jones became the first amateur in 29 years to win the Open Championship and also the first American amateur ever to do so. At the conclusion of the Open, another British journalist summed up Jones’ win  “… his victory was one of the most popular in the history of athletic sports. He not only won the cup with his golf, but the hearts of Britishers by his demeanor and character.”

To this day, a metal plaque is located on the spot just off the 17th fairway where Jones hit his miraculous shot. There is also an oil painting of Jones, along with the mashie he used on 17, proudly on display in the clubhouse. 

A Ticker Tape Parade

Jones returned home to an unexpected welcome, a raucous greeting at the Port of New York and a hero’s ticker tape parade up Broadway to City Hall. A contingent of 200 Atlantans greeted him on a chartered boat at Quarantine, watched him proceed with great fanfare amidst crowds of cheering New Yorkers and stood by as Mayor Walker greeted him on the steps of City Hall. It was quite a day for America’s new hero. 

With Jones winning the first Open Championship held at Royal Lytham, he established the standard of excellence for play over these hallowed grounds. Future Open Championships at Lytham would live up to the high standard Jones set as they would feature many of the greats of the game – Bobby Locke in 1952; Peter Thomson in 1958; Tony Jacklin in 1969; Gary Player in 1974; and Seve Ballesteros with two wins at Lytham, the first in 1979 and the second in 1988. Including Jones, there are 19 Open Championship victories among this majestic group – seven of them at Lytham.

So when you watch the Open at Lytham this week, remember it started with the greatest amateur of them all, as Bernard Darwin referred to him – the spectacular, but modest, young Atlantan Bob Jones. 

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.


The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.

Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”