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Posted March 16, 2013, 10:21 pm
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Sportsmanship one of Jones' greatest gifts to the game


Let’s celebrate the birthday of Bobby Jones this weekend by looking back at some of the best stories about him.

Jones was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1902, and he went on to become the greatest amateur golfer of all time. His legacy continues to this day with Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.

The stories I like best about Jones, however, don’t involve his playing action. Rather, they are actions by Jones, the kind that earned him a reputation as a true gentleman.

Take this one, for example: After sinking a tricky, 12-foot putt on the final hole of the 1929 U.S. Open at Winged Foot to force a playoff, Jones asked the U.S. Golf Association to push back the starting time Sunday morning by an hour.

The reason? He wanted to let Al Espinosa, his opponent who was a devout Catholic, have a chance to attend Mass. Jones would go on to win the 36-hole playoff by a whopping 23 strokes.

Another favorite comes from the final day of the 1926 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

After dining in his hotel suite with leader Al Watrous, the two headed back to the golf course. To get through the gates, Watrous showed his player's badge. Jones had left his at the hotel.

Rather than make a fuss, Jones went to the spectators gate, paid the admittance fee and made his way to the first tee. A few hours later, he won his first British Open.

Jones wasn’t always a great sportsman. He had a terrible temper as a youngster, and he famously tore up his card and stomped off the course during the 1921 British Open at St. Andrews.

Probably the most famous story about Jones and his sportsmanship occurred during the 1925 U.S. Open. During the first round he called a penalty on himself, and the stroke cost him an outright victory as he lost a 36-hole playoff to Willie Macfarlane.

"You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank," Jones said after the press praised him for his sportsmanship. "There is only one way to play this game."

Jones was right. There is only one way to play, and behave, and we are lucky that he left us such a fine example.