Aiken and Bobby Jones


Aiken and Bobby Jones
    Golf has been a favorite sport in Aiken, South Carolina for more than a century. Palmetto Golf Club is one of the oldest golf courses in the United States, founded in 1892 by the winter colonist Thomas Hitchcock.  Aiken is situated just a little more than 15 miles from one of the most famous golf tournaments that’s played: the Augusta National Golf Club which hosts The Master’s Tournament. The Masters is the first of the four major championships in professional golf and, unlike the other three events, is always played at the same golf club every year. One of the people who started the tournament was the celebrated golfer Bobby Jones, who also often played at The Palmetto Golf Club.  Each April, golf enthusiasts from all over the world vie for tickets and travel to Augusta, Georgia and areas surrounding the tournament, like Aiken, to watch five days of competition between the best golfers on the professional circuit.
                Robert Knowles was a winter colonist from Boston who came to Aiken in the 1930s when he was stationed in Augusta at Camp Gordon. His great-grandfather was the illustrious American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “Bobby”, as he was called, was enchanted with the Aiken of that time because there were no paved roads and people still drove buggies. At a social event, he met his future wife: the only child of Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd, who was famous for having had a long-standing and well-documented relationship with President Franklin Roosevelt.
                Bobby played golf every chance he got. He had been an avid golfer since he was just a small boy in Boston. Soon he was a member of the Palmetto Golf Club. From 1945 to 1953 Palmetto held a professional golf event called th Devereux Milburn tournament the weekend before the Masters. This tournament was won by such notables as Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. Bobby, as a member and a gifted player, helped organize the tournament in Aiken. Then in the 1950s, he became one of the scorekeepers at The Master’s Tournament.
    The scoring of golf is based on standardized rules. In a tournament, the number of strokes is counted and the winner of the event is the player who sinks the ball into the hole with the least number of strokes. The number of strokes assigned to each hole is classified by its par. “Par”, in golf, indicates the number of strokes it takes a practiced golfer to complete a single play of the hole. One of the main factors in determining the par of a hole is the distance that lies between the tee and the green.
    In order to show how the participants were progressing during the tournament for the first six holes, Bobby devised a system in which the red numbers on the main board indicated how many strokes were “below” par and the green numbers indicated how many strokes the golfer had made that were “above” par. Before that time, the score was kept individually by the golfers and their caddies and was not displayed. As a result, the terms “above par” and “below par” became part of the scoring vocabulary in the game of golf.
    Bobby Knowles became a gifted golfer and was considered one of the best amateur in America. A golfer is termed an “amateur” when he or she plays in tournaments, but does not receive money for wins. In 1983, he was inducted into the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame as having an “extensive international amateur playing career”.  He won many South Carolina championships, including the, Walker Cup team. He served as a Masters Committeeman for 29 years.

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