‘The Grand Slam’ by Mark Frost Details Golfer Bobby Jones’ Legacy

The Grand Slam: Bobby Jones, America, and the Story of Golf. Mark Frost. New York: Hyperion. 2004. 512 pages including 22 photos and index. ISBN 1401301088. Available from Amazon.com for $19.80.

Seventy five years ago, in 1930, American golfer Bobby Jones achieved ‘the grand slam’ – winning all four major tournaments of his era (the Open and Amateur championships of the United States and Great Britain). Before he won it all there wasn’t even a name for the feat. They were ‘the impregnable quadrilateral.’ After he’d done it, sportswriter Oscar “Pop” Keeler called it the Grand Slam, and the term has gone down in history. Since that time other legendary golfers have been able to reach that summit (Tiger Woods being the last) – but Jones is the only one to have done it in the same calendar year. And, just weeks after his triumph, at the age of 28, Jones retired from competition.

What drove Jones, the most dominant player of his era, to play golf as an amateur for fourteen years (with a record of 23 wins in 52 tournaments), and then retire at the height of his powers?

Author Mark Frost tells the story, not only of Bobby Jones and his growth as the premier amatuer golfer of his day, but of the history of American golf and American and British society in this riveting, thought-provoking biography.

Most biographies of an individual start as far back as possible, usually with the grandparents, and this one is no exception. Bobby Jones, born Robert Tyre Jones on St. Patrick’s Day, 1902, was a golf prodigy, winning his first tournament at the age of 14. His father, a lawyer in Atlanta, had had the promise of a professional baseball career, but opposition from his father – a strict Southern Baptist – quashed that dream. Robert Senior was determined that his son’s love for golf would not be denied.

Frost, the author of The Greatest Game Ever Played (detailing Francis Quimet’s victory in the U.S. Open, which did for American golf in 1913 what Tiger Wood’s first win at the Masters did for it in 1997 ), places Bobby Jones and his family squarely in their milieu, from the ravaged psyches of post-Civil War Atlanta inhabitants to the impact of World War I.

Frost is a lover of golf and it shows in this expertly researched book – several of the famous golfers of the day are profiled. Most of the book is taken up with the year 1930 and Bobby Jones’ quest for ‘the impregnable quadrilateral’. Frost gives a blow by blow account of every tournament, bringing the stress of the quest and the beauty of the achievement to life once more. Even the casual golfer will be absorbed in the tale.

But the rest of Jones’ long life is given short shrift – two chapters. His founding of Augusta is dealt with in a few paragraphs, as is the golf training films he made, and his participation in World War II. The book ends very poignantly, however, as Frost details in the final chapter the last 28 years of Bobby Jones’ life, in which he was gradually incapacitated by syringomyelia, a disease of the spinal cord, which eventually left him bed-ridden and paralyzed. Jones’ fight against the disease is heroic in itself. “There were times I didn’t want to go on living. But I did go on living, so I had to face the problem of how I was going to live. I decided I’d just do the very best I could.”

Bobby Jones’ legacy as a golfer and as a human being will live forever, and this book is a fitting tribute to it.

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