Bobby Jones' Grand Slam celebrated at 80

The number 80 rarely signifies great golf, but this weekend that figure is celebrated as a milestone of history -- eight decades since Atlanta golf star Bobby Jones won golf’s Grand Slam.

Monday marks the exact day in 1930 when Jones rolled in a final putt to win the U.S. Amateur and complete a sweep that includes the U.S. Open and the British Open and British Amateur. The four trophies are on display this weekend during the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, Jones’ home course.

On these fairways, after the news of Jones’ feat spread, “Boys went wild, whooping and hollering and going crazy,” said club member Danny Yates, whose uncle, Charlie Yates, was a constant practice partner of Jones.

The younger Yates' aunt, Fran Green, 93, lived across the street from East Lake in 1930 and recalled the scene for him by phone last week. “It was unbelievable how the whole town went crazy,” Yates said.

“Imagine America on the economic brink, everyone scraping for a crumb here and there. They needed some hope,” said golf historian Sid Matthew, who lectured about Jones at East Lake before Thursday’s first round. “They needed a hero, someone whose accomplishments they could vicariously live through. Jones gave the hope that the common man could rise above.”

The four majors were considered so impossible to collect in a single year that Jones stumped the press for a description. Grand Slam was borrowed from bridge.

Call it anything except prideful to Jones.

“The Grand Slam was big to Atlanta and America, but not that big to him,” Matthew said. “He was naturally modest, shy and retiring.”

The quest consumed him, though.

“Though Jones was cool and calculating outwardly, he seethed inside,” said his 1971 New York Times obituary. “He could never eat properly during a major tournament. The best his stomach would hold was dry toast and tea.”

For Jones’ heirs, who celebrated the anniversary with Thursday’s opening tee shot, the Grand Slam is less important than the way he lived.

“He was a family man first, his vocation came second and as he said, golf was third and never an end to itself,” said Robert T. Jones IV, 53, a clinical psychologist in McDonough. “Our family has kept the same values."

On Sunday, the Philadelphia club where Jones sealed the Grand Slam will celebrate as it does annually. Merion puts on a black-tie dinner followed by a march led by a bagpiper to the 11th green, where the final putt went in.

“The significance is that was basically the final tournament he played,” said Merion member Mons King, 68, volunteering as a walking scorer this week at East Lake.

For golf history buffs such as King, the 80th year is special enough for a pilgrimage. He and three friends have played the two British venues -- the Old Course at St. Andrews and Royal Liverpool Hoylake -- where Jones won half the Slam.

They’ll play Interlachen, the 1930 U.S. Open site, and end with 30 holes at Merion to replicate Jones’ final match.  (They, however, won’t need, as Jones did, a detachment of U.S. Marines to hold back the mob or enjoy a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan.)

Shortly after winning the Slam, Jones retired from golf to pursue law, following the philosophy of his family patriarch. Robert P. Jones, according to Jones IV, felt strongly that “real men do not waste their time playing games.”