The Enduring Legacy of Bobby Jones
What is it about Bobby Jones that still captures the attention and admiration of the world? Why is he still held up as the ideal champion when other great athletes are remembered only because their name is on a trophy?
I think that one reason my grandfather is still revered is because he was the single most influential man in the history of golf. There is no aspect of the game upon which his shadow does not fall and there is no aspect of the game that he did not alter. I realize that a statement this brash deserves some clarification. Let me elaborate.
First, Bobby Jones lived during an interesting era in American history. He was born in Atlanta in 1902, less than 50 years after the conclusion of the Civil War. When he began to play golf competitively, it was the considered wisdom of the golf world that truly great champions could only come from the northern half of the country. This was accounted for by the fact that most championships were contested on bent-grass greens, whereas southern courses had much slower Bermuda-grass putting surfaces.
I suspect, but cannot prove, that there was also a good bit of regional chauvinism in this statement as well. Bobby Jones's success as a competitor put a quick and ignominious end to that theory as he won championships on all sorts of surfaces and on several continents. His popularity, both in the North and the South, served as a bridge between two parts of the country that still smarted from the bitter war of the 1860s.
Second, in addition to being a reconciler in his own country, Jones also served as a good will ambassador in the United Kingdom. When he began playing 'over there' in 1921, World War I had just ended. Many of us now don't fully appreciate the devastating effect that the Great War had on the British populace. The male populations of entire villages and towns either had fallen on the battlefields of Europe, were severely maimed, or had been rendered insane by their experience. At the time, there were some very bad feelings toward the brash Americans, the 'Johnny-come-latelys' who, in British eyes, came in at the end of the war, saw comparatively few casualties, and left claiming that they had secured the victory that had eluded their British allies.
My grandfather came into this potential hothouse and made a phenomenally poor first impression, withdrawing from the British Open at St. Andrews. The British press snubbed him, calling him 'a mere boy.' But a few years later, when he won his first British Open, he won the hearts of the British and Scottish people -when he asked if the Claret Jug - the trophy given to the winner of the British Open - could remain in Scotland rather than come back to the United States. The ice had been broken between him and the British.
His relationship with the Scottish people continued to grow and deepen until they took the remarkably unusual step of naming him 'Freeman of the City' in 1958. Adding some humor to his touching remarks at that ceremony, Jones said, 'Now I can officially feel as much at home here as I have unofficially presumed for years.'
In addition to being an ambassador for the game, Bobby Jones changed almost every facet of golf as we know it today. First, he affected the way we currently count major championships. National championships were always important, but did not assume their current significance until my grandfather won all of them in 1930. He set the bar by which all great golfers plan their career.
Interestingly, when the professionals needed a 'grand slam' (since they could not play in the amateur championships), they added the P.G.A. Championship and The Masters tournament. The Masters is the only major that is played on the same course every year, a course that Jones co-designed and a tournament that he founded.
My grandfather effected great changes in the technology of the game. Although he grew up on hickory-shafted clubs, after his retirement he designed the first set of steel-shafted clubs, with wood and iron heads specifically matched to the technology of the shaft. These were as radical to their day as graphite and titanium are to our day, and may even be more so. Why? Simply because in the Robt. T. Jones, Jr., clubs the vagaries of hickory were removed: for the first time in history, clubheads were designed to help the average player get the ball in the air. The golfer could focus more on the challenges of the shot and less on the whippy, high-torque shafts of the club and the knife-like blades of the day. This is why the Jones clubs remained the hottest-selling golf clubs for several decades.
Bobby Jones even changed the way we understand the golf swing. His writings are still viewed as outstanding examples of how to describe proper technique. Noted television commentators have said that Jones' instructional films are state-of-the-art by our standards today, to say nothing of the 1930s when they were filmed. Although top players have developed more efficient and powerful ways to swing a golf club, authorities no less than Byron Nelson and Jack Nicklaus have said that the average player can learn more from studying my grandfather's swing technique than from analyzing the form of any contemporary player. That's high praise from men who are not noted for hyperbole.
In almost every area one can think of in the game of golf, no name holds greater stature than Bobby Jones. The highest award the United States Golf Association gives each year is the Bob Jones Award for sportsmanship and contributions to the game. Scholarship funds in both the United States and Canada have been established in his honor that have raised millions of dollars to support student exchanges between Emory University, Georgia Tech and St. Andrews University. In Canada, a similar but separate exchange has been created between the University of Western Ontario and St. Andrews University. These exchanges are highly prized within their institutions and the Jones Scholars have gone on to very successful careers.
No discussion of my grandfather's impact on the world of golf, indeed on all sports, would be complete without mentioning his personal code of honor and sportsmanship. During his playing career, Jones conquered a fierce temper and played to a standard of impeccable integrity, several times calling penalties on himself for infractions that no else witnessed. One time, one of these even cost him a national championship.
When he was disabled by a painful, incurable disease he never complained, only expressed a determination to 'play the ball as it lies.' His character shines as brightly today as it did in his heyday, prompting Alistair Cooke to write recently in his book Memories Of The Great and The Good: 'I have done a little digging among friends and old golfing acquaintances who knew him and among old and new writers who, in other fields, have a sharp nose for the disreputable. But I do believe that a whole team of investigative reporters, working in shifts like coal miners, would find that in all of Jones's life anyone had been able to observe, he nothing common did or mean.'
Any one of Bobby Jones' achievements would make for a legendary career. That they are found in one man is remarkable. That they are found in my grandfather is personally humbling. He was, in many ways, one of the greatest men of our era, or any era.
Yet to me and my siblings and cousins, he was just 'Bub' ' our nickname for him, coined by his oldest grandson, Bill Black. And memories of the times I was privileged to spend with him, of the advice he gave me and the smiles he bestowed on me, I will treasure all my life.
Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”