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Life With Bub: Robert Tyre Jones IV is devoted to the memory of his grandfather

Robert Tyre Jones IV
Gregory Foster
Robert Tyre Jones IV, grandson of Bobby Jones, broke 80 the two times he teed it up at the club his grandfather co-founded, but that was 35 years ago and he has no interest in playing there again.

To the degree we know him these days, Robert Tyre Jones Jr. is “Bobby,” frozen in his triumphant youth, the mythic embodiment of the Golden Age of Sport. The Babe, Dempsey, Man o’ War, Bobby Jones.

He won the Grand Slam in 1930, sealing the deal at Merion, where the U.S. Open will be played in June. With the Wall Street banker Clifford Roberts, Jones founded Augusta National and the Masters, and we would doff our cap to him just for that, if anybody doffed anymore. Jones was Shaq, with his doctorate in education, before there was a Shaq: Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Georgia Tech, another in literature from Harvard, and studied law at Emory. He was a significant figure in the Atlanta legal community and in the executive offices of Coca-Cola. He wrote about the game elegantly. Dan Jenkins stole a book title from him, The Dogged Victims of Inexorable Fate, and Jones’s life and times inspired Herbert Warren Wind to write this enduring sentence: “As a young man, he was able to stand up to just about the best that life can offer, which is not easy, and later he stood up with equal grace to just about the worst.” That’s the man as he’s come down to us. Our Bobby.

Dr. Robert Tyre Jones IV knows all about that man. He has studied the biographies and watched the newsreels. But that’s not the man Dr. Jones knew. He hung with Bub.

“I was Bobby, my father was Bob and my grandfather was Bub,” RTJ4 said the other day. He is 55, a clinical psychologist with an office in Conyers, Ga., where there sits a lamp with an image of his grandfather painted around its base. Bobby’s life lessons come up often in RTJ4’s day job, particularly when he is counseling golfers on the most important real estate in all of golf, what Bub himself called that “five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.”

Dr. Jones represents the end of the line—there is no RTJ5—and he is no blind keeper of the flame. “There are so many myths about him,” Dr. Jones said during a recent interview, one in a series conducted at the Atlanta Athletic Club, in his office, at his home and over the phone. He will be Dr. Jones here for the sake of clarity; call him that once too often in real life, and he’ll threaten to send you a bill. “People think of my grandfather as The Natural, as if it all came so easily to him, that he didn’t have to work at it. The truth is, he studied golf obsessively. On the course he was constantly processing a tremendous amount of data. He knew how far each club went. He was a mechanical engineer. He played like one.”

The sessions with Dr. Jones were chiefly about his famous grandfather, but his father came up often. RTJ3 was an Augusta National member and an accomplished golfer who had a special green phone in his home in Pittsfield, Mass., that was reserved for the daily conversation he had with his legendary father, who won 13 major championships in a seven-year span. In the summer of ’26, to cite one action-packed year, Jones won the British Open and the U.S. Open, in that order, crossing the Atlantic by ship to make his appointed rounds. (They don’t make glamour like that anymore.) In December of that year, in the wake of his father’s first ticker-tape parade, Bob Jones III was born.

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Bob3 went to boarding school in Chattanooga, served in Italy near the end of World War II and had brief stints at Georgia Tech, Emory and later Harvard that were less fruitful than his father’s.

“Like a lot of people who went to the war, he got home and was eager to get on with his life,” said Dr. Jones, who found his own path to adulthood through the maze of academia. (He has a bachelor’s degree in English literature, a master’s in divinity and a doctorate in clinical psychology.) Bob3 became the general manager of the two Coca-Cola bottling plants his father owned in New England and the vice president of Augusta National. His father was club president. Roberts was club chairman. They are honorary positions around which whole worlds revolve, then and now.

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