Golf’s great­est hap­pen­ing

The Covington News - - School Beat -

From the first words he spoke I knew Jimmy Harper was a man of shrewd knowl­edge. We stood in the vestibule of the church he at­tended and talked for a while. A rather stocky, ath­letic-built gen­tle­man with gray hair and a broad, win­some smile of a car sales­man, he spoke in a slow, res­onate voice, as he traced briefly the story of his life and work.

I’ll never for­get the first time Jimmy in­vited me and my fam­ily to have din­ner with him and his lovely wife, Flora; it was the be­gin­ning of a long and pre­cious friend­ship. Through this cher­ished as­so­ci­a­tion I learned prac­ti­cally all I know about golf in Ge­or­gia.

Jimmy, a re­tired en­gi­neer then em­ployed with the se­cu­rity firm cov­er­ing the Masters Golf Tour­na­ment in Au­gusta, knew all the leg­ends of golf; know­ing him was my vi­car­i­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with golf. He was like the prover­bial “Joe Jones,” who knew ev­ery­body, and had a first-name ac­quain­tance with all the greats of golf.

Meet­ing Jimmy at some small café, and lis­ten­ing to his de­scrip­tive words about the Masters, made me feel that I had been there with Lee Triv­ino, Ken Ven­turi, Gary Player, and other cham­pi­ons. He knew them all.

Through Jimmy’s eyes I saw the en­dur­ing great­ness of the Masters Tour­na­ment, the Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club, and its time­less trib­ute to the leg­endary Bobby Jones.

Noth­ing in the world was more qui­etly al­lur­ing than the East Lake Golf Course; a place where a young boy could roam for hours, watch­ing birds, lis­ten­ing to the oi­tany of the gen­tle winds, and smelling the fra­grance of spring. It was in this his­toric place that Robert Tyre Jones, Jr, made his first as­so­ci­a­tion with golf at the age of 6. As Bobby watched Ful­ton Colville, prac­tic­ing his swing in front of a board­ing house where Bobby’s par­ents had lodged for a sum­mer vacation, a golden op­por­tu­nity ap­peared. Bobby, sit­ting on the steps, was in­vited to hit a few balls. He did; this be­came his dis­cov­ery of the world of golf and the be­gin­ning of an un­sur­passed jour­ney.

Day af­ter day, Bobby would watch the play­ers. He’d fol­low them as they went from hole to hole. Then af­ter the adults left, Bobby would walk out on the green like the fear­less sher­iff in a west­ern movie, strut­ting down the dirt street of a wild west town af­ter jail­ing the bad men, and as­sume com­mand of the ter­ri­tory.

Then he’d swing the club over and over again prac­tic­ing what the pros had done un­til the shad­ows fell, and it was time to go home for sup­per. At night he’d dream of be­ing a golf cham­pion, and some­day hav­ing his very own golf course where the gi­ants of golf would grace the green with their pres­ence and per­for­mance.

Dreams be­came fond ex­pec­ta­tions; fi­nally, they all came true.

Bobby Jones be­came the only golfer in his­tory to win the “Grand Slam” of golf, tak­ing the four ma­jor tour­na­ments of 1930: the Amer­i­can and Bri­tish Ama­teur and the Amer­i­can and Bri­tish Open ti­tles. In Septem­ber, 1981, the United States Postal Ser­vice is­sued a com­mem­o­ra­tive stamp honor­ing Bobby Jones; the 18-cent stamp, with a pic­ture of Jones, il­lus­trates his mas­ter­ful swing.

Jones was also re­puted to have achieved the long­est putt in golf his­tory, and ex­cess of 100 feet on the fifth green in the first round of 1927 Bri­tish Open at St. An­drews, Scot­land.

Jerry Tarde, Ed­i­tor of Golf Digest, com­ment­ing on “Down the Fair­way,” a book writ­ten by Bobby Jones, said that in the his­tory of golf “the all-time best player, best teacher and best writer may have been the same per­son: Bobby Jones.”

My­in­ter­est in­Bobby’s ca­reer is re­lated to Ge­or­gia his­tory as it per­tains to golf. In my re­search con­nected with Amer­ica’s first golf course in Darien, I con­tacted theGe­or­giaHis­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in Savannah for some de­tailed con­fir­ma­tion of the Scot­tish High­landers, who set­tled in Ge­or­gia in 1736. Ms. Jes­sica A. Burke, an as­sis­tant at the li­brary, im­me­di­ately sent me a clip­ping from the At­lanta Jour­nal and Con­sti­tu­tion, Jan­uary 31, 1954, which val­i­dates my pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle.

The news­pa­per clip­ping shows a pic­ture of Cap­tain W. H. Lewis, of Sea Is­land, view­ing what prob­a­bly was the old­est golf club in Amer­ica. It was be­lieved to have been made in Darien in 1736, by a Scotch High­lander who set­tled there. The club is made of a rhodo­den­dron root and was pre­sented to the Sea Is­land shop owned by Cap­tain Lewis by the late Al­fred C. Newell, a prom­i­nent At­lanta in­sur­ance ex­ec­u­tive.

What an amaz­ing doc­u­ment for my col­lec­tion of facts about Ge­or­gia! I’m de­lighted and sin­cerely grate­ful for this his­tor­i­cal first.

But to re­turn. Bobby Jones be­gan a decade of des­tiny in 1930. He started like a lion, hun­gry for its prey, and de­feated the famed Robert Wethered in the Bri­tish Ama­teur at St. An­drews in Scot­land. In cri­sis af­ter cri­sis, Bobby per­formed with elec­tric pre­ci­sion. Af­ter com­plet­ing at 12-footer on the 17th, Bobby Said, “I had the feel­ing that some­thing had been tak­ing care of me through two matches I very well might have lost and that it was still tak­ing care of me. I felt that how­ever I struck that putt, it was go­ing down.

I did; and there were many, many more. All of the made Bobby Jones a leg­end.

Af­ter the “grand slam” Bobby be­gan to ponder his next chal­lenge. In his book, “The Masters Tour­na­ment,” Howard Liss gives us this phe­nom­e­nal piece of his­tory: “Then, like Alexan­der the Great with no new worlds to con­quer, Bobby re­tired from com­pe­ti­tion at the age of 28.” At the end of his life, two places held the fond­est en­dear­ments. One was St. An­drews, Scot­land, scene of his most tri­umphant vic­tory, the Bri­tish Ama­teur, and where he had re­ceived The Free­dom of the City Award, and honor hat only one other Amer­i­can had ever re­ceived; that be­ing Ben­jamin Franklin.

The other place was the Au­gusta Na­tional Golf Club and the Masters Tour­na­ment; th­ese com­bines made the most im­pos­ing of all hon­ors, and the most sig­nif­i­cant.

Laid out by Bobby Jones and in­vest­ment banker Clifford Roberts in the early 1930s, the course is the place of the spring rit­ual of the Mas­ter Tour­na­ment, the most pres­ti­gious-laden in the world. It is, as Jack Nick­laus said, “A mon­u­ment to ev­ery­thing that is great in golf.”

To bor­row the words of Howard Liss, “Bobby Jones was the great­est golfer and the great­est gen­tle­man in the world…his most en­dur­ing mon­u­ment is not a tro­phy or a par­tic­u­lar award, Rather it is a golf course at Au­gusta and a tour­na­ment called The Masters.”

It is golf’s great­est hap­pen­ing.

Clifford Brew­ton

Colum­nist

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