Thursday, April 8, 2004

Actor Jim Caviezel says he is inspired by the example of golfer Bobby Jones. In 1930, Jones accomplished a feat that has never been repeated: capturing golf’s “Grand Slam.” He won the British Amateur, the British Open, the U.S. Open and the U.S. Ama-

teur within four months of one other in the same year.

In 1934, Jones founded the Masters Tournament, the most renowned championship in golf, which takes place this week at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.

In the upcoming movie “Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius,” Mr. Caviezel portrays the legendary sportsman. However, it wasn’t simply Jones’ athletic ability that drew the actor — who recently starred in “The Passion of the Christ” — to the role.

Mr. Caviezel says he admires the golfer’s reputation of character and integrity. For instance, Jones was known for calling penalties on himself during competition. In the 1925 U.S. Open in Worcester, Mass., he called a penalty on himself that caused him to lose the tournament by a stroke.

The film opens April 30.

“People tend to remember the feats that you accomplish, but they love you even more if you are a great human being, like he was,” Mr. Caviezel says. “I’m drawn to strong figures, and in a day now where I hear a lot of ‘I’m not your kid’s role model,’ which I think is used quite a bit to basically do whatever you want to do to make a buck, this is a guy who was completely the antithesis of that.”

Born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1902, Robert Tyre Jones Jr. reigned in the world of golf throughout the 1920s and ‘30s. A sickly child, he overcame his physical ailments and a bad temper to become “the Babe Ruth of Golf.” He won 13 of the 21 tournaments he entered from 1923 through 1930. He triumphed in the U.S. Amateur championships five times. He also finished first at four U.S. Open championships, three British Open championships and one British Amateur championship.

Jones never became a professional golfer, but remained an amateur for his entire playing career, retiring at age 28. He believed money would ruin sports. When he founded the Masters Tournament, he wanted to serve the golf community by creating the best tournament of its kind in the world. Mr. Caviezel appreciates Jones’ sense of duty to people around him.

“You have to give back to your sport, as you give back to your community, as you give back to your school,” Mr. Caviezel says. “You can’t just be taking your whole life.

“America is like a great ATM machine. Let’s say the ATM machine is an analogy. A guy says, ‘Hey, I put my ATM card in and a $20 bill comes out.’ Finally, he does this for years and gets sick of it. He says, ‘You know I want my money now. I don’t want to have to keep using my ATM card.’ So he brings his chisel and baseball bat and destroys the machine. You have to give back or ruin the very thing that is giving you the freedom you have. You end up like Rome.”

With the assistance of stockbroker Clifford Roberts, founding Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament are certainly among Jones’ lasting contributions to American society, says Hootie Johnson, chairman of the club and the tournament. Even today, Jones remains the organization’s “president in perpetuity.” However, Mr. Johnson concedes that Jones’ service goes beyond the club and tournament.

“Bobby Jones’ outstanding play, his unwavering sportsmanship and decency are still revered over 100 years after his birth,” Mr. Johnson says. “We try to incorporate his spirit in everything we do at Augusta National.”

Away from the golf course, Jones also was a committed family man and a practicing lawyer, says Sidney Matthew, author of “The Life and Times of Bobby Jones.” Mr. Matthew, who lives in Tallahassee, Fla., owns one of the most extensive collections of Bobby Jones memorabilia.

Jones married Mary Malone and raised three children with her, Clara Malone, Robert III, and Mary Ellen. By the time Jones was age 24, he had earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Harvard University, and passed the Georgia bar exam after attending law classes for only a year at Emory University.

Jones spoke six languages, designed golf clubs, made instructional golf movies, wrote newspaper articles and was the author of four books, including “Bobby Jones on Golf.”

“He is considered the old-fashioned hero,” Mr. Matthew says. “He was a hero after 5 o’clock. He was also a hero on the field of play. … We have redefined the definition of hero in modern times. Today, the very best sportsman can go home and kick the cat and beat his wife. We excuse that intolerable behavior because the person is a good athlete.

“With Bobby Jones, he was the genuine American hero. What you saw was what you got. We don’t have that anymore.”

Mr. Matthew admires Jones for bowing out gracefully at the proper time from the sport of golf. Today, many athletes, such as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and George Foreman insist on returning to their games after retiring, he says.

“Jones was confident he had established a mark that would withstand the test of time, and it has,” Mr. Matthew says. “He is still held up as the model sportsman. … He didn’t play against his opponent. He played against the golf course, which he called ‘Old Man Par.’ Instead of trying to beat his opponents’ brains out, he was a fellow sojourner, in an effort to beat the golf club into submission, rather than the fellow he was playing.”

The uproar over Augusta National Golf Club’s refusal to allow women to become members might be different had Bobby Jones been alive, says Alan Shipnuck, author of “The Battle for Augusta National.” Jones died in 1971.

“Jones was a great supporter of women’s golf,” Mr. Shipnuck says. “He was friendly with a woman named Marion Hollins. She was a really important figure in the 1930s. She very well could have been an Augusta National member, but she fell on hard times and died young.”

Contrary to the “elite” attitude associated with Augusta National Golf Club, Mr. Shipnuck thinks that Jones wanted golf to include everyone.

“He wanted the game to be inclusive,” Mr. Shipnuck says. “He wanted it popular with all segments of America.”

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