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History

Updated on 06/18/2020 3:33 PM

The Bobby Jones Legend

Bobby Jones’ name already was linked to Sarasota when he attended the dedication ceremony on February 13, 1927, for Bobby Jones Municipal Course, which had opened the previous June. The course, 2.5 miles east of downtown, replaced one just south of Main Street that had been built in 1904 by Sarasota’s first Mayor J. Hamilton Gillespie, a Scotsman. Jones headlined the dedication match, paired with Sarasotan Louis Lancaster. Jones shot 73; amateur runner-up Watts Gunn, 75; Lancaster, 77; and Sarasotan Jim Senter, 83.

Jones first came in the fall of 1925 to Whitfield Estates, just north of Sarasota, at the request of the Whitfield developers, the Adair family of Atlanta, Georgia, where Jones grew up. The Adairs employed Jones to assist in the sale of Whitfield lots. Jones was featured playing against another famous golfer, “Sir Walter” Hagen, in a much publicized 72-hole opening golf match and other early matches at Whitfield. That course and the Bobby Jones course were designed by Donald Ross, the foremost golf course architect of the day. Together with Tommy Armour, Whitfield’s first resident pro, Jones played seven matches at Whitfield during the winter of 1926 against pairs of the best pros.

When Bobby Jones won the 1926 British Open, the Sarasota Herald wrote, “Sarasota’s Own Wins Title.”

When Bobby Jones won the 1926 British Open, the Sarasota Herald wrote, “Sarasota’s Own Wins Title.” That July community leaders presented him with a Pierce-Arrow sedan at a ceremony at McAnsh Park in downtown Sarasota.

From 1923 to 1929, Jones dominated both British and American golf by winning nine major tournaments. He was a national champion eight years in a row. He often broke course records with clubs made of hickory without steel shafts that today add power and distance. In 1930, at the age of 28, Jones won the four major tournaments of his day, a “grand slam” feat that may never be equaled.
During his 14-year golf career, Jones earned degrees in law at Emory University, engineering at Georgia Tech and English Literature at Harvard. He joined his father's law firm in 1928 and withdrew from tournament golf after 1930. Later he starred in golfing films and designed clubs for A.G. Spalding. He wrote numerous articles and three books about golf. He joined New York financier Clifford Roberts in building and founding Augusta National Golf Club and in 1934, established the Masters Tournament there. Jones, who is still known as one of the world’s greatest golfers, died in 1971.

Donald Ross

Donald J. Ross (November 23, 1872–April 26, 1948) was one of the most significant golf course designers in the history of the sport. He was born at Dornoch in Scotland, but spent most of his adult life in the United States.

Ross served an apprenticeship with Old Tom Morris in St Andrews before investing his life savings in a trip to the U.S. in 1899 at the suggestion of a Harvard professor named Robert Wilson, who found him his first job in the America at Oakley Country Club in Watertown, Massachusetts. In 1900 he was appointed as the golf professional at the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, where he began his course design career and eventually designed four courses. He had a moderately successful playing career, winning three North and South Opens (1903, 1905, 1906) and two Massachusetts Opens (1905, 1911), and finishing fifth in the 1903 U.S. Open and eighth in the 1910 British Open. He later gave up playing and teaching to concentrate on course design, running a substantial practice with several assistants and summer offices in New England. His brother Alec won the 1907 U.S. Open.

Ross's most famous designs are Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole, Oak Hill and Oakland Hills. He was involved in designing or redesigning around 600 courses. Some of his early work was in Virginia and includes Jefferson Lakeside Country Club. In some cases he didn't even visit the site, but on the courses where he was most closely involved he displayed great attention to detail. Often he created challenging courses with very little earth moving; according to Jack Nicklaus, "His stamp as an architect was naturalness." His most widely known trademark is the crowned or "turtleback" green, most famously seen on Pinehurst No. 2, though golf architecture writer Ron Whitten argued in Golf Digest in 2005 that the effect had become exaggerated compared to Ross's intention because green keeping practices at Pinehurst had raised the centre of the greens.

Often he created challenging courses with very little earth moving; according to Jack Nicklaus, "His stamp as an architect was naturalness."

Ross often created holes which invited run-up shots but had severe trouble at the back of the green, typically in the form of fallaway slopes. In the 1930s he revolutionized greenskeeping practic-es in the Southern United States when he oversaw the transition of the putting surfaces at Pinehurst No. 2 from oiled sand to Bermuda grass.

Ross was a founding member and first president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, which was formed at Pinehurst in 1947. He was admitted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977, a rare honor rarely awarded for anything other than playing success.

Ross is most closely compared to the other two leading architects of the early 20th century, Alister MacKenzie and A.W. Tillinghast. Many argue that Ross's work does not consistently carry the same standard of quality as Mackenzie and Tillinghast's works. Evidence supporting this argument includes the fact that a much higher percentage of Ross's courses have been altered, redesigned, or de-stroyed than Mackenzie and Tillinghast's. However, Ross is unmatched in the quantity of work he completed.
Ross died while completing his final design at Raleigh Country Club in North Carolina.