Golf and true greatness: Meet Bobby Jones

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Even those who subscribe to Mark Twain’s curmudgeonly remark that ‘“golf is a good walk spoiled”, cannot fail to have been impressed by the recent feats of our own Rory McIlroy.

His prodigious talent has been seen in four spectacular victories this year, including two of the so-called ‘Major’ competitions.

He still has a distance to go to match the achievements of Woods and Nicklaus, but he is well on his way.

It may be that he will one day be named with something akin to the reverence with which golfing pundits refer to Robert Tyre ‘Bobby’ Jones.

There was a period eighty years ago when Bobby Jones, a practicing lawyer and a golfing amateur swept all before him, winning 13 major competitions, including the grand slam of amateur and professional tournaments in both the U.S.A. and Britain.

But Jones is revered not just for what he did, but for what he was, a man of grace, charm and integrity.

Ill-health overtook him early, but he never voiced a word of complaint, using the golfing maxim, “You have to play the ball where it lies.’”

Another golfing enthusiast, the late commentator Alistair Cooke, once compared Jones’s attitude with that displayed by many modern players.

Cooke told a player of the incident when Jones once drove his ball into thick woods.

After one shot which barely moved his ball, his third shot found the fairway. Emerging from the woods, he told his playing partner of the duffed shot.

The player listened to Cooke and said, “What a mug!” The rest of us say, “What a sportsman!”

Much loved in St. Andrews, he was invited back to receive the Freedom of the City. Deformed by pain, and sitting in a wheelchair,he was approached by an eight-year-old girl, who shyly presented her programme and a pencil.

With twisted hands he wrote, “For Linda in friendship; R.T. Jones”. Then--and here is the touch of greatness- he dug into his own pocket, retrieved a programme and pen, and handed them to the girl with the words, ‘Now, you do one for me’.

We will never play like Bobby Jones, but may God give us grace to live like him!.