Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15, 1923: A first for the amateur

INWOOD, N.Y. - Bobby Jones had plenty of reason to be upset at the 1923 U.S. Open. Entering the final round with a three-shot lead, Jones had given away the lead with a bogey, bogey, double-bogey finish, then watched as Bobby Cruickshank birdied the 18th to force a playoff.

Despite being a lifelong amateur, Jones still held high standards for himself, and he was thoroughly disappointed in the way way he finished. "I didn't finish like a champion," he said, "I finished like a yellow dog." Well, then.

Playing an 18-hold playoff the next day, July 15, Jones and Cruickshank were tied after 17 holes, when Jones hit his drive into the rough. With 200 yards between him and the flag, Jones calmly pulled out his 2-iron and hit it on the green within 8 feet of the cup, clinching his first major championship.

The win at Inwood Country Club was the first of seven Major championships for Jones, who was an amateur in the true sense of the word. A lawyer by trade, Jones never made a cent playing golf, competing only in his spare time. Still, he managed to become one of the most famous names in golf. Aside from his seven professional majors, Jones also won six amateur championships, including an amazing 1930 year when he won the professional U.S. Open and British Open and the amateur titles in both nations, winning the single-year Grand Slam.

But it's after golf where Jones made an even bigger name for himself. He gave up his amateur status by holding golf lessons in Hollywood and appearing in instructional videos, then made a fortune designing golf courses. His most famous creation is Augusta National, home of the Masters and one of the most beloved golf courses in the world. As chairman of the course, he founded the Masters and took great care to make it the renowned tournament it has become.

With all his success, his single most famous golf shot remains the 2-iron from 200 yards he used to clinch his first major title.

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