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

Bobby Jones
Sports Illustrated
Bobby Jones in 1926. His grandson Robert Tyre Jones IV has studied all the biographies and watched the newsreels but that's not the man he knew.
Augusta National was important to father and son. In 1959, Bobby was coaching his son with the hope he would make it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur and thereby earn an invitation to play in the 1960 Masters. But Bob3 drew Big Jack in the first round, and Nicklaus steamrollered him on his way to winning the whole thing. Some years later, the father had plans for his son to succeed him as president of Augusta National.

Bob4 is not an Augusta member, but he has been to almost every Masters since attending his first one in 1970, at age 12, then the unofficial minimum age. His grandfather was too ill to attend that year or the next, so Bob4 never got to see Bub at Augusta. He loves going. Asked which player his grandfather would be most drawn to today, Dr. Jones said, “Ernie Els. That rhythm! You know Ernie gets hot, but then he lets it go. My grandfather was very much like that. He worked on maintaining a placid face throughout the swing. He thought that tension in the small muscles led to tension in the big muscles, which kills speed and rhythm. But also because Ernie has interests outside golf.” He talked about Ernie’s involvement in autism awareness and his wine label. Bobby was more of a bourbon man. On the mixing of bourbon and Coke, he once said, “My God, that’s the ruination of two good drinks.”

Dr. Jones’s handicap dipped as low as four, and in the two rounds he played at Augusta, he shot 77 and 78, though that was 35 years ago. Asked whom he would call if he wanted to get another crack at the course, he said, “I wouldn’t.” Both his grandmothers were deeply formal, traditional Southern ladies, and he retains a measure of their instinct for propriety.


Casual, though, is his default mode. On St. Patrick’s Day, he spoke at a dinner at the Atlanta Athletic Club. It was a fund-raiser for scholarships connected to Bobby Jones, and it fell on his 111th birthday. During the dessert course (cake with a green layer) a golf ball made the rounds, the one Jones used when he completed the Grand Slam. One man wore a kilt. Many wore suits. Dr. Jones wore a blazer on which both front buttons had been lost to indifference.

Dr. Jones raised three girls and two boys from two marriages, none of them his biological children. One of the boys, Michael, died two years ago of a heart attack. Some years ago the youngest of the five, Melanie, stared at Bobby’s primitive hickory-shafted clubs on display in Augusta National’s trophy room, where Jones ate many meals, and said, “He won all those tournaments with those? They’re just sticks!” Jones despised sticks for golf clubs, but Melanie had it correct. His Grand Slam two-iron looks like a gardening tool from Little House on the Prairie.

Bobby was a natural lefthander forced to write righty as a kid. His cramped signature—Rob’t T. Jones, Jr.—was stamped on the back of hundreds of thousands of Spalding clubs, some of which are floating about eBay these days. Hollywood didn’t like that stern signature, and when Jones made the 12-part series How I Play Golf, somebody at Warner Brothers affixed a curly, playful Bobby Jones signature to the opening credits. The signature-as-logo on the necks of the $98 shirts in the Bobby Jones clothing line is curlier yet. Between the royalty payments from various books, DVDs, the clothing line and the club line, the Heirs of Bobby Jones (the corporate name) are making enough free money to buy a Lexus every half-decade or so. “We’re not rich by any stretch,” Dr. Jones said. You can follow the money yourself. When was the last time you saw someone pull out a hybrid stamped with a cursive Bobby Jones on its sole?

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