The Meaning of Life: The Perspective of Bobby Jones

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).

Take 08/06/14
Taken by me on 08/06/14

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.



9 thoughts on “The Meaning of Life: The Perspective of Bobby Jones”

  1. Until tonight, albeit I’m not an avid golfer, I had never heard of Bobby Jones. Jones’ story though, taking up golf because of his stomach ailment, is quite inspirational. I wonder if he would have chosen to take up another sport if he wasn’t afflicted by such an ailment. I think it is quite neat though that he was able to be such a great golfer and inspire others to excel in whatever they can even if they are put at a disadvantage because of an ailment.


  2. Zach I found your interest in asking Bobby Jones about his opinion on technology and the golf game to very interesting. I wonder how he would feel about it being a person that faced many obstacles during life because technology often makes our lives easier and more efficient. I wonder if this technology existed during his time if he would have been so motivated to work so hard to accomplish his goals.


  3. Bobby Jones exemplifies everything that is honorable and noble in golf; he’s a true legend of the game. I’d love to play golf with him more than have dinner, to be honest. Would love to join in on that threesome with you and him.


  4. I’ve heard of Bobby Jones as one of the greatest golfers of all time, and that he never went pro, but that’s all I knew about him. I had no idea how inspiring and honorable he was as a man. It makes me a little sad to see this, because I think for the most part athletes as honorable as Jones just don’t exist anymore. It seems like every week there’s a new story about how an NFL player attacked their spouse. Even Tiger Woods, somebody who everybody thought was a standup guy and regarded as one of the consummate pro ended up having affairs for years behind his ex-wife’s back.


  5. I always wonder with people who did amazing feats in prior times, what would they be like now? If Tiger Woods had Jones’ Clubs and shoes and so on and they went head to head, what would happen?


    1. I agree with you there Jordi, I’ve always wondered that myself. How would Jesse Jackson or Mark Spitz fare at the 2016 Olympic Games? I think we are at a point where technology in sports (including but not limited to performance equipment, medical supplements, and performance tracking technology) has placed today’s athletes at a level where comparisons to the past are invalid. I wonder if we will ever get a true measure of athleticism or ability then vs now, without the enhancement of today’s technology.


  6. Jack and Jordi, you guys bring up a very interesting debate that I, too, have thought about many times. Golf, however, seems to be a more complicated sport when considering this question. The technological advances in golf (not just in the clubs/balls/shoes/etc., but in the technological advances influencing the ways in which people are able to practice and review their swings/shots via video) has increased the level of skill in today’s golfers. Thus, simply sticking today’s Tiger Woods on a golf course circa 1930 to play against Jones wouldn’t be the right question to ask. Rather, one should ask whether Tiger Woods would exceed Jones’ achievements in the early-mid 1900s had he grown up using the same equipment that Jones’ had available to him, or vice versa.


  7. Morgan, you pose a very interesting question regarding Jones’ legacy and how it may have been different had he lived in a time of more technological advancement. Jones’ was said to have been born with a love for the game. His family lived directly next to a golf course and it’s been said that Jones’ would go to the course, watch the course pro swing, and run home to practice/imitate this swing. Would technology affect his motivation and determination? Who can know for sure. However, if anyone were to have the necessary determination, it would be Bobby Jones.


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