If you know anything about golf, you’ve probably heard of Bobby Jones. He was a legend. But the playing career of this particular legend didn’t last long.
Even though Bobby Jones is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, he retired from competitive play at the age of 28. And many people don’t know that he never played professionally. With the exception of 1930, his career took place entirely during the 1920’s—a time when professional golf was flourishing—but despite the allure of money and fame, he never turned pro.
Over the course of his brief stint as a competitive golfer, Jones played 31 major tournaments, and won 13 of them. That’s an incredible percentage that’s unheard of today. And what’s especially remarkable, is that in one year (1930), Jones won all four major championships of the day: the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, the U.S. Amateur, and the Amateur Championship. This resulted in Bobby Jones becoming the first golfer to ever win the unofficial “grand slam” title.
Even though he was an amateur golfer during his playing career, Jones was able to make decent money. And it wasn’t just because he was a highly regarded lawyer. In 1930, Bobby Jones placed a bet on himself to be the first to win the grand slam title. The odds he was given were 50-1. Amazingly, he pulled it off and collected $60,000 from the British bookies who took the bet.
Not only was Bobby Jones a great golfer, he was widely known as a stand-up guy. In one example at the 1925 U.S. Open, Jones accidently moved his ball a fraction of an inch while lining up his shot because he mistakenly hit a patch of grass near the ball. Even though nobody had seen it (and this was far before the advent of televised sports), Jones called a penalty on himself—and it ended up costing him the tournament. He had no regrets about his decision.
Jones retired from competitive golf in 1930, although he continued to play in some of the biggest tournaments of the time as a ceremonial gesture. His retirement was a result of declining health, mostly related to syringomyelia, a spinal disorder that caused him a great deal of pain. The condition ended up eventually incapacitating him to a wheelchair.
Despite Jones’s retirement from golf, he was still involved with the game in many ways. Perhaps his greatest achievement was his assistance in helping to found and design Augusta National Golf Club, one the world’s most revered golfing organizations.
Bobby Jones is truly a golfing legend, and even to this day is one of the sport’s most identifiable figures. He passed away in 1971 at the age of 69, but his incredible contributions to the game continue to live on.