I’ve been asked this question, or questions similar to this, on numerous occasions. I never know what to say. My knee-jerk reaction is to simply name a favorite athlete or musician of mine, such as Magic Johnson or Bruce Springsteen. This time around, as I thought more and more about the prompt, I came to the conclusion that if I could have dinner with only one person, it would need to be someone that I felt I would both relate with, and would be able to give me monumental and influential advise/insight about life and the meaning of life. These conditions have led me to choose Bobby Jones as the one person I would have dinner with.
Bobby Jones is regarded as the most successful amateur golfer of all time, etching his name alongside other legendary athletes, such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden and Red Grange in the Golden Age of Sports. He was born in Georgia and battled health issues as a child. According to multiple sources, including an ESPN biography, a serious digestive ailment prohibited him from eating solid food until the age of five. His frail frame led him to take up golf, in which he became a child prodigy, winning his first children’s tournament at the age of six. His swing, to this day, is often regarded as picturesque, which is especially impressive considering he never took a golf lesson and simply learned from watching those around him.
Jones is described as having a bad temper in his early adolescent years and because of this, he initially struggled to play up to his abilities. He soon learned, however, that his greatest opponent was himself and this maturity quickly launched him to upper echelon of golfers around the world. He was also very bright and earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, his A.B. in English Literature from Harvard University and attended the Emory University School of Law where he needed only three semesters to pass the Georgia bar exam.
Jones went on to become the only player to ever win the grand-slam of golf (pre-masters, thus counting the U.S. Amateur) in 1930, completing this seemingly impossible feat by winning the U.S. Amateur at the Merion Cricket Club (which I had the pleasure of playing this summer).
He also exemplified the principles of sportsmanship in every aspect, famously calling a penalty on himself in the 1925 U.S. Open that likely cost him the championship. Perhaps the most telling aspect of Bobby Jones’ life was the fact that never received a single penny of his prize money, as he remained an amateur throughout his entire career, retiring shortly after his monumental grand-slam to work in his fathers law-firm. “A nation that idolized him for his success grew to respect him even more for his decision to treat golf as a game rather than a way of life. This respect grew with the years. ‘First come my wife and children,’ he once explained. ‘Next comes my profession–the law. Finally, and never as a life in itself, comes golf’ (Litsky). Bobby Jones transformed from the scrawny boy with the bad temper to someone O.B. Keeler, an Atlanta Sports Writer, would say “has more character than any champion in our history.”
Dinner with Bobby Jones would be quite interesting. Our conversation would start with the game of golf and what it meant to him. Assuming he was alive today, I would ask him about how he feels technology is affecting the game and whether or not it’s for the betterment of the game. I would be able to teach him about some of the changes the game has recently undergone and how it has affected the way people play and view the game. I would ask him more about his decision to remain an amateur and ask what else may have influenced this decision.
The decisions and actions Bobby Jones made throughout his life are the reason I would want to spend time with him. He seems like someone who just “got it.” He knew what was important to him in his life and never let anyone tell him otherwise. He was a well-rounded man who shared many of my interests. From him, I would hope to better understand what I value most in life.