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Jones hits peak, then walks away


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 2, 1999

Alexander the Great cried when he had no more worlds to conquer.

Bobby Jones simply retired.

On Sept. 27, 1930, at the age of 28, Robert Tyre Jones Jr., finished running roughshod over the world of golf, beating Eugene V. Homans 8 and 7 (eight holes up with seven remaining) in match play in the U.S. Amateur championship on the famed east course at the Merion Cricket Club at Ardmore, Pa.

It was the end of that era's Grand Slam of golf -- victories in the same year in the British Amateur, British Open, U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.

No one ever had achieved that feat. No one but Jones ever would.

No one can. The format has been changed with the amateur tournaments supplanted by the Masters and the PGA Championship.

Jones' feat was a high point in golf's history. "From now on, business will be my first consideration," he said as he put down his clubs and headed home to Atlanta to begin practicing law full time.

The sport, like so much in America, would stagger under the weight of the Great Depression triggered by the 1929 stock market crash. Courses would go bankrupt, pros would be out of work and years would pass before the public would find a golfer to celebrate with the enthusiasm with which it had embraced Jones.

He began his sweep at St. Andrews in May 1930, beating Roger Wethered 7 and 6 in the British Amateur. The next month he overcame double-bogey 7 on the eighth hole of the final round and won the British Open by two strokes over Leo Diegel and Macdonald Smith at Hoylake.

He returned to the United States a hero, given a ticker-tape parade in New York. Two weeks later at Interlachen Country Club in Minnesota he survived three double bogeys, all on par 3s, in the final round and, with birdies on three of the final four holes, defeated Smith by two strokes.

Winning the U.S. Amateur was merely a formality. Associated Press sports editor Alan Gould, at Merion, wrote that Jones "made his final triumph so ridiculously easy that the wonder is he hasn't been doing this sort of thing every year since he began to scale the heights."

On the 36-hole final day, Jones went up by nine strokes with 14 holes remaining, and the estimated 15,000 spectators began stampeding the course to be at the hole where the match ended. It took seven more holes.

On No. 29, with U.S. Marines surrounding the green, Jones drained a 25-footer, Homans was short from 20, a roar went up and fans rushed the hole. The Marines set up a phalanx around Jones, Homans and U.S. Golf Association officials, escorting them to the clubhouse for the presentation of the championship trophy, the final act in a yearlong drama.

-- Information from the St. Petersburg Evening Independent was used in this report.

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