- Historic Sites
It was fifty years ago that Bobby Jones won his Grand Slam, making him the only man who ever has—or probably ever will—conquer the “Impregnable Quadrilateral” of golf
August/September 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 5
The eighteen-hole playoff was all square with one hole to play—that whimsical eighteenth where Jones had shot a 6 and Cruickshank a 3 the day before. Cruickshank hooked his drive into the rough. Jones was down the right side but his drive tailed off into loose dirt at the edge of rough. Cruickshank played out safe, short of the lagoon. From his poor lie, Jones slashed a midiron 190 yards to the green, six feet from the pin, Cruickshank pitched over the green into a bunker. He needed 6 to get down. Jones had an easy 4 and his first major championship.
Bobby and Keeler sat down at the clubhouse steps. “I don’t care what happens now, ever,” Bobby said.
What did happen is history that challenges belief. From 1923 to 1930, inclusive, Bobby Jones won the U.S. Amateur five times, the U.S. Open four times, the British Open three times, and the British Amateur once—thirteen national championships in less than eight years. In eight U.S. Opens he finished worse than second only once. He won twice by himself, twice in playoffs, tied for first twice but lost the playoffs, and once he was second. He reached the final round of the U.S. Amateur six times and was defeated once.
He played in the British Open for the first time in 1921. In his third round over the Old Course at St. Andrews he had a nine-hole score of 46. He squandered six shots on the tenth hole, picked up and walked off a course he had learned to loathe. He never lost that tournament again, returning three times and winning three times.
The first time was 1926 at the Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s Club in England, where he broke Al Watrous down with an iron shot across sandhills to the seventeenth green from a bunker 170 yards away. “The Council of the Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s Club,” Bernard Darwin wrote, “have now decided to mark, as far as can exactly be done, the spot at the seventeenth from which Bobby played his shot. This is a precedent that could not often be followed, but here the geographical conditions are favorable and if now and then someone has to lift a drop from behind the monument he will do so in a reverent rather than an exasperated spirit.”
Bobby returned to St. Andrews to defend his British Open title in 1927. “By this time,” Darwin wrote, “St. Andrews had taken a thorough hold on him. He was amused by its problems; he knew whereabouts were hidden bunkers and was not annoyed by them … he had devised some three different ways of playing the Long Hole In according to the wind; he had realized that for a player of his parts the Road Hole need hold no excessive terrors, unless he is overambitious. In short he had proved the truth of Mrs. Malaprop’s saying that ‘tis safest in matrimony to begin with a little aversion,’ for he was now thoroughly in love with the Old Course and played it as if he loved it.”
Of all the national championships, the most difficult for Jones was the British Amateur. He never concealed his dislike for eighteen-hole matches, and the Amateur [lost] seven of them before the final round of thirty-six holes. He made three runs at the championship before he won it, and when he did he had the good sense to do it in 1930, the year of the Grand Slam.
First leg of the impregnable quadrilateral was the British Amateur, and it brought him back to the old gray town of St. Andrews. In the final match he defeated Roger Wethered, 7 up and 6 to play, but he had had some narrow escapes along the way. In the opening round he was five under par on the first five holes, yet he won only three of these holes from Syd Roper and he could not improve on that margin. He needed nineteen holes to overcome Cyril Tolley in the fourth round, won his sixth-round match from Jimmy Johnston on the last hole, and beat George Voigt in the semifinal after being one down with only three holes to play.
Scrambling, sweating, and at one point bouncing a slice off the head of a steward, Jones made his way over the Hoylake course of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 291 strokes. That brought him to the clubhouse leading the British Open, and there he sat with a shaky bourbon-and-branch-water while the third-round leader, Archie Compston, blew up and then Leo Diegel and then Macdonald Smith fired and fell back.
The Grand Slam had become a definite goal by the time the United States Open began at Interlachen, Minneapolis. If Bobby could polish off the pros once more, he would be an overwhelming favorite to take care of the amateurs, even in eighteen-hole matches. He won the Open by two strokes after a variety of adventures.
First there was the heat. Bobby finished the first round so drenched with perspiration that he couldn’t untie his necktie, and O. B. Keeler cut it off. The heat drove Charley Hall, a pro from Birmingham, Alabama, clear out of the tournament. “This tournament,” he said, “will go to the man with the thickest skull.” Cyril Tolley lost nine pounds in one round.
Then there was the “lily-pad” shot. In the second round, Jones reached the ninth hole needing a par 4 for 35. He half-topped his second shot and his low line drive had no chance to clear the lagoon in front of the green. He would have to take a penalty stroke and hit another ball across the lake, getting down in 6 if he made no mistakes. The ball hit the water, skipped twice like a flat stone, and came to rest in the fairway. After a thirty-yard chip and three-foot putt produced a birdie, word spread that the ball had hit a lily pad, but Keeler, who was there, testified that it hit only water.