US Amateur comes to Jones' home club _ sort of

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 9, 2014 at 3:46 pm •  Published: August 9, 2014
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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (AP) — The U.S. Amateur Championship is coming to a most appropriate place — the home club of Bobby Jones, the greatest amateur of them all.

From there, the story line gets a little more complicated.

The Atlanta Athletic Club, which will host the country's top amateurs beginning Monday, long ago left the site where Jones learned the game that would make him famous.

In fact, he never played either of the 18-hole layouts — Highlands and Riverside — that will be used this week.

But Bob Jones IV, his grandson and now a member at AAC, said the golfing great does have a strong link to the club's current location in the sprawling Atlanta suburbs.

"A lot of people don't realize the ties my grandfather has to this property," Jones said. "He did come to this property in the late 1960s and see it, and he did review the initial designs for the golf course.

"This," the grandson added, "is a tremendous honor for the club and the legacy of my grandfather."

The athletic club was founded in downtown Atlanta in 1898, and in the early part of the 20th century the members built an 18-hole golf course about six miles east of downtown, along a streetcar line in the East Lake neighborhood.

That's where Jones became a member, setting up a brilliant career that would include seven major professional championships (four U.S. Opens, three British Opens) even though he never gave up his amateur status.

Of course, he is most famous for winning the Grand Slam of his day — U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur — in 1930, followed by his retirement from the game at age 28.

According to his grandson, the U.S. Amateur was probably his favorite event, a tournament he first played as a 14-year-old and would win five times in seven years beginning in 1924.

"I think he liked the Amateur, for one thing, because it held a lot of 36-hole matches," Jones' grandson said. "He always felt that in a 36-hole match that he had a very good chance of winning."

Jones' record backs it up.

"In match-play tournaments, like the British Amateur, the U.S. Amateur, and the Walker Cup, nobody ever defeated him twice in his entire career," his grandson said.

Jones' club hosted the Ryder Cup at East Lake in 1963, but members were already plotting a move to the suburbs, following the path of many white Atlantans. The decision was opposed by some members, who would eventually form their own club at East Lake, but Jones was on board with the decision to move to a new location, according to his grandson.

In fact, just a month before he died from a rare neurological disease in 1971, Jones sent a letter to the U.S. Golf Association asking that it award the U.S. Open to his new home club.

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