Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bobby Jones ... sportsmanship at its best

Bobby Jones was one of the best golfers of all time, although he was an amateur, played part-time, and left the game at 28. A lawyer by profession, but with academic degrees in engineering and English literature as well, Jones is best known for his Grand Slam victory in 1930. In that single year, he won all four of the major tournaments of the day and left the game as a player. Later, he co-founded the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia and its annual Master’s Tournament, developed a set of instructional videos, and designed golfing equipment.

But perhaps Jones’ greatest legacy involves sportsmanship on a level that is almost unheard of – then or now. Competing in the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones’ golf club accidently brushed the ball as he prepared for a shot. He immediately reported the contact and movement – a violation of the rules – to the on-the-scene authorities. None of them had seen the ball move. So they questioned nearby spectators, and none of them had seen it move either. But Jones insisted that he had touched the ball and it had moved, so he assessed himself a one-stroke penalty. He later lost the tournament by one stroke.

After the incident, Jones was angered when people praised his sportsmanship in the matter, wrote author Mark Frost in his 2005 book The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf. Rules are rules, Jones believed. “You’d as well praise me for not breaking into banks,” he told a reporter.

Today, the Bob Jones Award is presented annually by the U.S. Golf Association in recognition of good sportsmanship in golf.   

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