Bob Jones provided the golf world with some of the game’s indelible moments en route to nine USGA championships, three British Open titles and one British Amateur victory. His round of 66 at Sunningdale Golf Club outside London in qualifying for the 1926 British Open, which consisted of 33 full strokes, 33 putts and all 3s and 4s on the card, was for decades considered to be the perfect round of golf. His round of 63 at age 20 on his home course, East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, broke his own course record by three strokes and is the lowest score he ever recorded.
However, when asked to recall his best round, Jones maintained that it was another round away from championship competition that gave him more satisfaction than any other. A reprint by the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle in 1972 of an excerpt from the 1950 book, My Greatest Day in Golf by Darsie L. Darsie, hangs on the clubhouse wall at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y. The National was the site of the first Walker Cup Match in 1922, and the biennial competition will return there Sept. 7-8 for its 44th playing.
Jones was responding to a question from then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was visiting with him at the 1949 Masters Tournament, about the best round Jones had ever played. I wouldn’t know just how to answer your question, General, Jones replied, but if you asked me what round of golf I have played which gave me more satisfaction than any other, I would have said it was a round I played 25 years ago – not in a championship – and not a record-breaking score.
In 1924, two years after the USA had defeated Great Britain and Ireland in the inaugural Walker Cup Match there, a special event was arranged at the National Golf Links for the members of the 1924 Walker Cup teams. The 1924 Match, the last one to be played on an annual basis, had been contested at nearby Garden City (N.Y.) Country Club.
The National Links is famous for its tremendous carries if certain tees are used, Jones told Eisenhower. The back tee markers are seldom used except by players of Walker Cup caliber. On this day, we were instructed to play the longest tees. It was medal competition. It was drizzling, or perhaps I should say misting, and a cold, raw wind was blowing, often in our faces.
On this particular day, the National Links was a fitting test for the best golfers of Great Britain and the United States. It was a day to break the heart of all but the hardiest.
In the wet and cold and in the face of that wind, General Eisenhower, I shot 73. I think it was the best round of golf I ever played. There was no title involved. It was just a round of golf with the player pitted against the course and the elements, but that 73 gave me more satisfaction, I think, than any round of golf I have ever played.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.