Saturday, April 18, 2009

Golf Memorabalia.Part 2

I knew an elderly gofer [who as he wished died on the golf course] who had an inordinate attachment to an ancient set of golf clubs and would play all the club tournaments with this set. He was a wealthy man and processed several swanky sets, but his first live was this old set. I was told that he found this set when he went to the local scrap merchant looking for a spare part for his antique Morris sports car. Tucked away in one corner sat this set and the scrap yard owner, who didn’t know what it was, was happy to sell it for a song and see the last of it. Like a mongrel who became the favorite pet and watch dog, this someone’s discard served the new master so well that he would use it in preference to the others who had a better pedigree.

Putter which is used on the greens of the golf course is the most valuable of all the golf clubs all the fourteen of them. This is one club which can make or mar your game. A golfer I know broke his valued and favorite putter. He was grief and panic stricken. This bereaved golfer took the shaft and the blade to several workshops and found to his dismay that getting the two pieces together was no easy task. Finally he did succeed but the resultant club, at the end where the two pieces were welded together, Looked as though it had grown some malignant tumour. When this putter with the attached tumour was in use, it distracted other playing partners so much that they offered to replace the club with similar new one at their own cost! Our friend the golfer in question vehemently refused. A compromise was arrived at and the tumour was camouflaged with white tape which then became less distracting! The problem was ultimately solved when the putter gave away once more and the golfer had to find a replacement much to the delight of his friends. Needless to say the new putter did not enjoy the same favour as the old one.

Every golfer believes that his wife does not like the game. He is under the impression that the long hours he spends away from home leaves his wife pining for him. I know for certain that his is not the reason. As a matter of fact most wives are happy to see their crazed husbands out of their way. The likely reason is the havoc the equipment plays on their well appointed homes. A golf bag may be the most beautiful object in the world in the jaundiced eyes of the golfer, but not the wife’s. Unfortunately the golf bag gets placed on turf treated with offensive smelling manure and water. This smelly bag far from being clean and often muddy is brought into the home as a prized procession and which woman would tolerate this despite her professed love towards the owner. If you have a collection of these bags as golfers wont to have imagine what it does to marital harmony. [To be continued]

Bobby Jones

Robert Tyre Jones, popularly known as Bobby Jones is a legend in the world of golf. He was born in 1902 and died in 1971. As a child he was sickly and had to be spoon fed and showed no promise of the great physical ability, grace and poise that came to be associated with him in later life. He took to golf virtually like a fish taking to water and at a tender age of six started winning tournaments. And at the age of fourteen became the youngest player to have played in the US amateur championship.

Despite the great talent and promise success did not come easily to the yougman. This is because of his fiery temper. He once, while playing an important match in the UK, picked the ball out of frustration knowing full well that he will be disqualified. Only when he learnt to keep his emotions under control, he began to bloom and in the ten years that he ruled the golf world he was the undisputed king winning several major tournaments in the US and the UK, making the sports writers of his time and since then, call him as the greatest champion the game has ever seen. In 2000, Golf Digest magazine listed his Grand Slam win as the greatest achievement of the century.

But Bobby is remembered more for his character, courage and honesty.

Once while playing in an important tournament he felt that after he had addressed the ball the ball had moved. He called the marshals who made enquiries with the spectators and players who disagreed with Jones and they refused to award the penalty. Undaunted, Bobby awarded two penalty strokes on himself and proceeded to lose the match by one stroke! No wonder then that New Yorkers gave him ticker tape parade when he won both the US and British open championship in 1926, the only amateur to do so in golfing history.

Between 1923 and 1930, Jones dominated the game of golf, winning at least one national championship every year and 13 of 21 major championships he entered. His preeminence during that period was so complete that his two primary rivals, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, never won any U.S. or British Open in which Jones played. In 1927, Jones returned to St. Andrews to defend his open title. Declaring that the trophy would remain in St. Andrews if he should win, Jones endeared himself to the people of St. Andrews, forming a kindred spirit with the birthplace of golf that would flourish for all time. In 1930, Jones accomplished the unthinkable by winning the U.S. and British Open and Amateur Championships all in the same year.

Amazingly, Jones amassed his incredible record while playing no more frequently than the average weekend golfer, about 80 rounds per year. He typically spent no more than three months out of the year traveling to, and playing in, tournaments. Consequently, he played almost exclusively in national championships, viewing other tournaments as a sideline used only as a tune up for the majors after a long layoff. Surprisingly this extraordinarily gifted golfer, at the height of carrier, at the young age of 28 announced his retirement. Why did he retire? There are many versions. One which is attributed to him is probably true. He appears to have said that success in golf is like entering a golden cage and it is difficult to get out. One should get out when one can. This is what he did to escape the pressure.

After retirement till he went as an officer when America went to war, he was associated with teaching golf and refining the art of making golf clubs. It was he who s replaced the Hickory shaft with steel. He also spent time writing syndicated newspaper columns on golf, teaching golf and writing instruction books, all of which were hugely popular. Not many know that he had an engineering degree and also a degree in law and certification in golf course design and architecture. Perhaps Bobby Jones’ greatest legacy to the game of golf was his design of the Augusta National Golf Club and Course. Still considered one of the finest golf courses in the world, Augusta opened in 1933 and is home to the Masters, one of the four major tournaments played today.

In 1942, at the age of 40, Jones was commissioned a captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, intent on doing his part to support the war effort. He later served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. 9th Air Corps, but his unit was converted to infantry and landed at Normandy on D–Day plus one. After spending two days under intense enemy fire, Jones remained in Europe for several months before returning from the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. Later in life, Jones would speak little about his experiences in the war, deflecting the subject in much the same way as he deflected people’s efforts to get him to talk about his exploits in golf.

In 1948, Jones would come face to face with the greatest challenge of his life. Suffering from severe back and neck pain which were later diagnosed to be due to Syringomyelia, a rare and degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Paralysis first required Jones to use a cane, then leg braces, and finally a wheelchair. At first glance, Jones’ fate might appear a cruel irony, as the author of one of golf’s most graceful and powerful swings lived out his days crippled by a deadly disease. But those who knew him would disagree. While known primarily for his unmatched skill on the golf course, the true measure of Bobby Jones was his character. One story passed down through the years has Jones responding to a question about his disease late in life with the statement, ‘We all have to play the ball as it lies.’ And play it he did, enduring tremendous pain with stoic bravery for some 22 years. As a young man, wrote Herbert Warren Wind, ‘he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst.’

On December 18, 1971, golfers on the old course at St. Andrews stopped play as the flag on the clubhouse in front of the 18th hole was lowered to half-mast. The legendary Bobby Jones had died at the age of 69.

Just how great was Bobby Jones? ‘Down the years people have wondered whether Jones was the greatest of all golfers,’ British golf writer Pat Ward–Thomas said of Jones, ‘Comparison is invidious, for no man can do more than win and Jones won more often within a given period than anyone else has ever done. In his time, Jones was supreme, at match and medal play, to a greater extent than Hogan or Nicklaus have been in theirs, and even the great Tiger Woods. For many [like me], Robert Tyre Jones Jr, of Atlanta, Georgia was, quite simply, the greatest of them all.

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