Things started with a bench. Well, the idea of a bench, really. They haven’t gotten around to buying the bench itself just yet.
As Anthony Smith remembers it, he and his regular golf partners were playing a round at the Bobby Jones Golf Course five or six years ago when, somewhere around the 17th hole, they decided the course needed a place they could sit for a moment and rest.
“We said, ‘We ought to buy a bench for this hole,’” he said. “‘We’re tired of walking.’”
That led to talk of other ways the regular players at the venerable Buckhead golf course could come together to help improve the place. Soon, the Friends of Bobby Jones Inc. was formed.
“We’re trying to speak up for the golfers,” said Smith, president of the Friends group, and a regular player of the Bobby Jones course for about 18 years. “Technically, our mission is to enhance the course at Bobby Jones and make it a more pleasant experience.”
The group, which started with five members and has grown to 220, has bought tables and umbrellas for the clubhouse and recruited volunteers to help trim bushes overrunning the parking lot at the public course, Smith said. The group raises money through an annual golf tournament in September, he added.
The Friends’ most recent addition to the course, which is owned by the city of Atlanta, is a new historical display in the clubhouse showing highlights of Jones’ career, the development of the course named for him and his personal involvement in the construction of the course.
The Bobby Jones Heritage Room display, which is open to the public, includes photos of Jones playing golf, and of trophies he won and copies of newspaper clippings and public records related to the development of the course. Included is a photo of Jones teeing off during the first round played at the Bobby Jones Golf Course.
The Friends group plans to introduce the Bobby Jones Heritage Room with a reception as part of a celebration of Bobby Jones’ birthday on March 17. Jones was born in 1902 and died in 1971.
During the 1920s and early 1930s, Jones ranked among the best golfers in the world. In 1930, he won the “grand slam” of golf – the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open and British Amateur tournaments – claiming all four titles in a single year.
New York City threw him ticket tape parades, Smith said. Atlanta honored him by naming a new golf course after him. “It was named for him before he won the grand slam,”
For the Friends’s clubhouse display, board member Herb McKoy researched local archives for information on Jones’ career and his relationship with the Atlanta course bearing his name. He found Jones took an active interest in the construction of the Bobby Jones Golf
McKoy found photos and newspaper articles in the Emory University archives showing Jones visiting the site during the course’s construction and an article that states Jones approved of the course design. “He was more than just an honorary figurehead on this thing,” Smith said.
McKoy describes the course as “a gem, really, right here in the heart of Buckhead” and says it regularly attracts golfers into the city. He hopes the new historical display will give players a clearer picture of Jones’ relationship to the 18 holes they’re playing.
“People come in to town to ‘play Bobby Jones,’” Smith said. “We hope this gives them some history of him and this course.”