- 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
Theatrical golf and a winning personality made Arnold a demigod. A blond cowlick somehow enhanced his boyish good looks. He was all insouciance and good nature, with a quick smile and friendly word for followers in the gallery. His way of going captivated admirers. “When Mister Palmer hitches up his pants and walks fast to the next tee,” said Iron Man Avery, his regular caddie in the Masters, “I know we ain’t out of it yet.”
Arnie had all the grace and good manners his idolators lacked. “Arnie’s Army,” they called themselves, but this mob made Coxey’s Army look like the Queen’s Own Lancers. Disorganized and disorderly, inconsiderate and noisy, they were a burden to their hero and a distraction to other players. They regarded all of Palmer’s opponents as enemies and were downright venomous toward Jack Nicklaus, for he had the temerity to defeat their leader in the first National Open Nicklaus ever entered.
This was 1962 at Oakmont near Pittsburgh. Nicklaus was twenty-two, a burly redhead out of Ohio State who had two National Amateur titles as an undergraduate. At Oakmont he and Palmer were tied after seventy-two holes. Jack won the playoff, 71 to 73.
That was the beginning of a career that some regard as golf’s greatest. Jack was the first to win all four of the world’s major titles at least twice; he broke Bobby Jones’s record of thirteen major championships by winning sixteen; he was the first to win $2,000,000 in purses and then the first to win $3,000,000; he is all class.
Probably it was the behavior of Arnie’s Army that prompted Bob Jones to write a little essay on gallery etiquette that was printed on tournament badges at the Masters. “Most distressing to those who love the game of golf,” it says in part, “is the applauding or cheering of misplays or misfortunes of a player.”
As his illness progressed, Bobby continued to attend the Masters. First he wore a brace on his right leg. Later he used canes to walk—to shuffle, actually—and watched the golf from a cart. His friends in the press made a ritual visit to his cottage beside the tenth tee for a drink and a chat each year. He was a gracious host, and candid. Asked how he felt about the glacial pace of some top players, he said that if he had thought it would improve his game he would not have hesitated to take his time but he had felt his game was best when it flowed along without interruption.
“There could be no more fascinating player to watch,” Darwin wrote of him, “not only for the free and rhythmic character of his swing but for the swiftness with which he played. But there was nothing hurried or slapdash about it, and the swing itself, it not positively slow, had a certain drowsy beauty which gave the feeling of slowness.”
In 1953 there was a civic testimonial to Fred Russell, sports editor of the Nashville Banner, celebrating his twenty-five years on the paper. Friends of Russell occupied a dais in the Vanderbilt University gymnasium that looked a block long. Bob Jones came to Nashville in his wheelchair but when it was time for guests to take their places on the dais he managed to get to his feet and shuffle along with the others. They entered single file, and as Bobby reached the two or three steps leading up to the dais, two figures crowded up behind him. Each lending a shoulder in support, they eased him up the stairs.
It was done so unobtrusively that only a few in line behind them saw it happen and identified Bobby’s helpers—Jack Dempsey and Red Grange.
In pain more and more of the time, Bob Jones lived until December 18, 1971. At the end he weighed about sixty pounds. More than forty years earlier when he announced his retirement from tournament play, his fellow members of the Royal and Ancient Club of St. Andrews had given him a silver cup engraved: “A Golfer Matchless in Skill, and Chivalrous in Spirit.” An understatement.