Along Came Jones


Keeping up with the Joneses in golf, with apologies to Rosie and Steve among others, has never been a difficult task.
There is really only one that matters: Bobby.
And this year marks the 75th anniversary of his singular achievement, the winning of the Grand Slam.
So Ron Rapoport, a newspapermans newspaperman who knows a thing or three about the golf, writing and reporting (not necessarily in that order) has written a book about it. Its called The Immortal Bobby. And John Wiley & Sons, Inc. will publish it in April.
If you want to learn a thing, or three about Jones and the defining times in which he lived, you should read this book.
And if you dont want to take my word for it, take the erudite word of Bob Costas. Rapoports graceful style is well-suited to telling that story, Costas says.
Fellow author John Feinstein adds, Just when you think there is nothing new to be said or written on the subject of Bob Jones, Ron Rapoport comes along and proves that theory completely untrue.
Biographies are best when they tell us as much about the history of the subjects era as they do about the subject. Rapoport grasps this in the first words of his introduction when he writes: If Bobby Jones did not exist, the mythmaking sportswriters of the Golden Age of Sports might have had to invent him. And in a sense, perhaps they did.
We find out that Jones loved opera and pondered Cicero, discussed Einstein and relaxed after a competitive round by soaking in a hot tub and reading Giovanni Papinis Life of Christ.
The Golf Channel, of course, not being an option at the time.
We find out that Jones home town of Atlanta was once named Terminus because it was founded as a railroad center and one of its early City Councilman was William Hartsfield, the guy they would later name the airport after.
We also get a rich portrayal of the characters who surrounded Jones. O.B. Keeler, the local writer who chronicled Jones, also kept him line when his weight fluctuated, feeling free to call Robert Tyre Jones Rubber Tyre Jones. Could you imagine anyone referring to Tiger as Lost In The Woods when he struggled with his driver?
Jones had a terrible temper as a youth and was an all-world club thrower. Jones, said Grantland Rice, had the face of an angel and the temper of a timber wolf.
My favorite line is Rapoports contrasting of Jones with the flamboyant Walter Hagen: Walter Hagen was everything Bobby Jones was not, and nothing Jones was.
Along the way we meet the legendary golf writer, Bernard Darwin, and find out why he rarely quoted players in his stories. My readers want to know why I think he won, not why that fool thinks he won, Darwin scolded.
Yet Darwin, in all his pomposity and brilliance, stood in awe of Jones.
Rapoport delves into the Grand Slam in great detail and doesnt shy away from the ambiguities of Jones position on race relations in the middle of the 20th century.
And there is even more detail on the spinal cord problems that would eventually incapacitate Jones. I have been about as low as a snake can ever get, Jones wrote Herbert Warren Wind in 1971. In December of that year, Jones died.
At least two books on Phil Mickelson, the defending Masters champion, are scheduled to be published in April. One of them, entitled One Magical Sunday (But Winning Isnt Everything) has the look of a winner.
But if you really want the historical and competitive context of Mickelsons story, Id highly recommend reading the Jones book first.
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