Grace in Victory

Class is a key trait that goes much deeper than developing image, or the superficial trappings of fine clothes or a catchy nickname. This intangible quality is, without doubt, absolutely essential if you are ever going to be universally recognized as a champion by friends, peers and enemies alike. All champions have class.

Robert Tyre Jones was the epitome of the true Southern gentleman. He was known the world over as the complete sportsman, and this resulted in large part because he never had anything but praise for his opponents. In 1930, Jones won the Gram Slam by winning both the British and US Amateur championships, as well as the British and US Open titles, a feat that has never been, and almost certainly never will be equaled.

The first of his four historic victories, in the British Amateur, occurred on the windswept links of St. Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of golf. In an early round, Jones found himself engaged in a tense and strenuous duel with British Walker Cup player, Cyril Tolley — a match that Jones likened to a sword fight to the death.

At the famous 17th, the “road hole,” the match was even. You’ve probably seen the road hole on TV. It’s named for a road running parallel to the 17th green that has spelled disaster for many a would-be champion. Following a good drive and playing first, Jones took a 4-iron and hit the ball long and a little left of the green. In this way he avoided both the road on the right and the cavernous road bunker on the left. Tolley, seeing Jones in position for an easy chip and a putt to make four, went for the green. It is entirely possible that feelings of doubt may have crept into his mind, for he rolled his hands on the shot and pulled it short and left. Jones chipped up to eight feet. Now Tolley was faced with a devilish short pitch, downwind to a raised green, with the menacing road bunker between him and the putting surface and the road directly beyond the green. Bobby Jones himself describes Tolley’s shot.

“It cannot be stated as fact, but it is nevertheless my conviction that Tolley’s third shot on this hole has never been surpassed for exquisitely beautiful execution. I shall carry to my grave the impression of the lovely little stroke with which he dropped the ball so softly in exactly the right spot, so that in the only possible way it finished dead to the hole.”

Jones made his putt and eventually defeated Tolley at the 19th hole. He went on to win the Championship and the Grand Slam, hitting many superb shots along the way. 30 years later, however, Jones still maintained that the finest golf shot he ever saw was made by Tolley on the 17th at St. Andrews.

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