For more than 100 years,
At the time, I thought it was the best job in the world. And it was! Each day, I cataloged the collection of Robert Tyre Jones, one of the greatest golfers who ever lived and a man whose life was deeply intertwined with East Lake and
Bobby Jones was born on March 17, 1902. That same year, John T. Lupton, one of the early fathers of the
With Lupton and C.V Rainwater, secretary of the
Jones and East Lake Golf Club grew up together. When he was six years old, Jones was on hand when the Atlanta Athletic Club opened the first golf course at East Lake, then a suburb of the city, in 1908. The course was completely redesigned to its current layout in 1913 by noted golf course architect Donald Ross.
Jones learned to play golf on the two courses. Instructed by the club pro, Stewart Maiden, Jones was a child prodigy who won the Junior Club Championship at East Lake in 1911 when he was only nine years old. Five years later, he stunned the golf world by making it to the quarterfinals of the United States Amateur Tournament at the age of 14.
After several years of near misses, Jones gave a premonition his spree of major tournament victories in 1922 when he won the Southern Amateur at East Lake. Over the next seven years, he captured 13 major titles, culminating in his historic 1930 “Grand Slam” when he won all four majors. After this celebrated feat, Jones again stunned the golf world by announcing his retirement from tournament golf.
Retirement gave Jones time to explore two of my passions, East Lake and
He attended Emory University Law School in 1926, the same year he won the British Open and U.S. Open, and passed the bar the following year after only three semesters. Oh, and while winning the British Open and U.S. Amateur.
Jones joined his father’s law firm. As a lawyer, Jones and his father did business with The
One of Jones’ first legal duties for the company after his retirement was to act as the lawyer for a transaction where Woodruff and a group of
During this same time period, Jones, Clifford Roberts and a group of investors became
My personal association with East Lake began while Jones was president. As I recounted in an earlier blog, my father contracted childhood polio. After his time in the “iron lung,” he did all of his physical therapy and recuperation at the swimming pool and lake at East Lake. Every time I visit the club, I walk over to the lake and think of a six-year-old boy learning to walk again.
In 1948, Jones was diagnosed with Syringomyelia, a debilitating spinal disease that causes extreme pain and eventually paralysis. While Jones’ role with the club diminished due to his declining health (he passed away in 1971), the East Lake course eventually hosted two signature events: the 1950 USGA Woman’s Amateur Championship and the 1963 Ryder Cup.
The fate of the course began to decline after the 1963 Ryder Cup as the surrounding neighborhood began to deteriorate with changing social patterns. The famed clubhouse and old course were saved when 25 members banded together to purchase them and rename both at the East Lake Country Club. By 1970, the second golf course at the site was sold to become a low-income housing project. The club just managed to survive for the next two decades.
In 1993, the fate of the Club changed for the better when a charitable organization led by Tom Cousins purchased the Club with the goal to restore the clubhouse, course and surrounding neighborhood through golf. Since that time, the East Lake Foundation had raised more than $20 million for community redevelopment and other charitable causes. Jones would be proud.
In 2005, East Lake Golf Couse was named the permanent home for the TOUR Championship by
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to give Brandt Snedeker, winner of both the FedEx Cup and the TOUR Championship by
When I asked him how he likes his cooler, he laughed and said it was a highlight of his house… and that he hoped to be back in Atlanta this year to win a second one!
Ted Ryan is director of Heritage Communications for The
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