To wrap up this week of golf posts, I chose to read The Bobby Jones Story by O.B. Keeler. Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones is considered the greatest amateur golfer ever and is the co-founder of the Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters is held. During WWII, he also served as an officer in the Army Air Corps, reportedly landing in Normandy one day after D-Day and conducting interrogations of POWs. I had hoped The Bobby Jones Story, which is Jones’s authorized biography, would tell me more about both aspects of Bobby’s life, plus much more about the man himself. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The story did tell me some things about Jones I didn’t know, such as his tendency when he was younger to throw his clubs after a bad shot or that, unlike so many sports stars these days who can’t let go of the limelight, Jones retired at the top of his game at only 28 years of age, after he’d won all four major golf titles – the Grand Slam of Golf – in a single year, a feat no one had ever accomplished. And I learned that he possessed great determination, staying the course despite seven years of no wins; that he had great integrity, calling penalties on himself, even when they cost him the win; and that, while he loved golf passionately, he valued his family and his education (he earned an engineering degree at Georgia Tech, earned a literature degree at Harvard and later earned a law degree from Emory University) more. However, the story stops when Bobby’s golf career does, in 1930, long before he joined the military; a fact that likely has to do with its author, O.B. Keeler.
Oscar Bane Keeler was a sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal and, most specifically, the man who covered most closely Bobby Jones’s fifteen year career. Keeler writes in the beautiful prose of an old-fashioned newspaperman, his writing interspersed with wit and elegant turns of phrase, like this one: “Up to the luncheon intermission, the mosquitoes had been working on me until I was lopsided.” But, within the pages of this book, he is first and foremost a lover of both golf and Bobby Jones and, as such, recounted almost every stroke Jones ever made, as well as those of a few other golfers. He is alongside Bobby for over 120,000 miles of travel, to several continents, and through Bobby’s growth from a 14 year old prodigy to a struggling young man who hasn’t reached his potential, to the point where the name of Bobby Jones becomes one that will forever echo on the greens of the world’s best golf courses.
What Keeler has written is a wonderful thing; a story of friendship and greatness, a source of memories for those who knew Jones or those who revere him. I, however, often found my eyes glazing over as Mr. Keeler rattled on about one up here and a lost putt there. I admit that this has likely more to do with the reader, who clearly lacks the interest to fully appreciate the story he was telling, than with the book itself. If you’re a golf fan, you’ll likely enjoy Mr. Keeler’s biography. If, however, you’re like me and golf wavers between something that you tolerate for the man you love and the worst of the four-letter words, then you might want to choose a different book, maybe one of the ones Bobby wrote himself.
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