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Monday, 5 June 2017

Bobby Jones Reflects

Bobby Jones quit competitive golf at the ripe old age of twenty eight. He had pretty much established himself as the greatest golfer of all time by then, finishing it off with an exclamation point by winning the Grand Slam. At 28, he'd won 13 Majors. 

Never having considered turning professional, it was time for Bobby to settle down and earn himself a living. But, not surprisingly, Bobby did reflect on his decision to retire so young. He spoke of this subject in his book, Golf is my Game:

    "There is a school of Oriental philosophy, I am told, which holds that the aim of life should be the perfection of personality or character, and that sufferings, joys, and achievements mean nothing except as they influence the development of this personality or character. I hope the analogy will not appear too ridiculous, but it has been thinking along such a line that has uncovered the only real regret I have ever had about quitting competitive golf when I was only twenty-eight years of age.
     I have never been sorry that I did not try for a fifth Open or a sixth Amateur, for after adding one of either, there would always be the question of another. What I have regretted at times was that I did not keep on until I might have achieved, in my own estimation at least, the status of 'Compleat Golfer', to use Isaak Walton's spelling.
     Whatever lack others may have seen in me, the one I felt most was the absolute inability to continue smoothly and with authority to wrap up a championship after I had won command of it. The failing cost me the eventual winning of more than one, and made several others look a lot more fortuitous than they should have... I have no means of accounting for this sort of thing. It was not, as some have said, the result of over-confidence or of a desire for 'coasting'. Both explanations would appear reasonable, but I think either is more charitable than I deserve.
     As nearly as I can analyze my own state of mind, up to the point of becoming aware that I was the was the winner I had been possessed of a singleness of purpose driven by an intense desire to win, which had of itself focused my concentration upon playing golf. Up to that point there had only been the determination to wring the best figures possible out of my game.
     Having reached a stage where I suddenly knew that I should certainly win with any sort of ordinary finish, I became fearful of making myself look ridiculous by kicking the thing away. At this point I think I began to be conscious of my swing and began trying to make certain of avoiding a disastrous mistake. I was no longer playing the shots for definite objectives, but was rather trying to keep away from the hazardous places...
     I have often wondered whether or not I could have overcome this weakness had I played longer in competitive golf. I think perhaps I could have, had I learned to play safe by merely choosing a safe objective and playing as definitely for it as I had for the flag in driving into the lead. 
     I like to think that I could have done this, because then I would have scored within reasonable distance of some of our modern geniuses."

So, besides gaining more insight into the honesty and humility of Bobby Jones, by reading this we are reminded that it is all relative. The greatest player of his generation--if not all time--recognized that he had weaknesses. And, he wasn't afraid to admit to them. Furthermore, he reminds us that, no matter how good a shotmaker you become, the most important thing in golf is what is going on between your ears. Golf is, as Carl the Grinder likes to say, the ultimate mind game. 

Eventually, the time comes to quit worrying about your damned backswing and start worrying about how well you are thinking. And this is why I love reading Bobby Jones books. No one has been able to describe the complexities of playing the game better. NO ONE!