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Keeping Up with the (Bobby) Joneses

Bob Jones of Georgetown plays in one of the most uniquely exclusive golf tournaments in the world. There is only one requirement to gain entry into the annual event, but it excludes about 99.9 percent of all golfers.
 
To play in the Bobby Jones Open, you have to be named Bobby Jones, or at least some version of it. Names such as Robert Jones, Bob Jones and Roberta Jones are all acceptable variations.
 
Bob “Sky Chief” Jones, a longtime TGA Member at Sun City Golf Club, played in his first Bobby Jones Open in 1991. He quickly learned everyone in the BJO association had a nickname. It made sense, too. All the competitors in the tournament have the same name! They need a way to differentiate players from one another.
 
The BJO monikers are doled out based on a participant’s background, hobby or occupation. Our Bob Jones is a Texaco Company retiree. In the 1950s and ’60s, the company had two types of gasoline. The one Jones worked closely with was called Sky Chief.
 
Voila! His BJO nickname was born.
 
“I never have time not to talk about the Bobby Jones Open,” he said with a laugh. “The association is like a family. It doesn’t matter where you are from, how rich or how poor you are. If you’re a member, you’re family.”
 
Jones was first introduced to the BJO after his boss at the time saw an article about the tournament in the Wall Street Journal. Jones jumped on the opportunity and played in his first BJO some 28 years ago. This year he played in it for the 21st time.
 
One of Jones’ favorite memories from the BJO was the year the tournament was held at famed East Lake Golf Club, home of the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship. East Lake is the oldest course in Atlanta and was the home course of legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones, a.k.a. the Original Bobby Jones.
 
There’s a room in the East Lake clubhouse dedicated to Jones. The players in the BJO, Sky Chief included, were given a guided tour of the facilities by Robert Tyre Jones IV, the grandson of the World Golf Hall of Famer.
 
“It had all of his trophies, medals and letters he wrote,” Jones said. “It was like walking into a golf museum.”
 
Obviously, the BJO was created to honor the greatest amateur golfer of all time, Robert Tyre “Bobby” Jones. In 1930, at the age of 28, Jones won all four major golf championships: the U.S. and British Opens and the U.S. and British Amateurs. In all, Jones won 13 of the 31 majors he played in and finished in the top-10 27 times. Eighteen of his U.S. Amateur records still stand today.
 
Jones also played an integral role in designing Augusta National Golf Club and co-founded the Masters Tournament. At the age of 46, his health started to decline when he was diagnosed with Syringomyelia, a spinal nerve disorder which ultimately took his life in 1971.
 
In 1979, Robert A. Jones, a dedicated fan of Bobby Jones, gathered four other Bob Joneses for a round of golf. This casual get-together was the start of the Bobby Jones Open organization. Since then, it has transformed into a two-day tournament held every year in June to honor the great golfer. The BJO also raises money to develop further research for a cure for Syringomyelia. The competition is hosted at the home course of a different BJO member every year.
 
So far, Sky Chief is the only Texan who plays consistently in the tournament. He has won a couple of flight championships throughout the years, and hopes to host a future BJO in Georgetown, given the city’s recent growth and added amenities.
 
The 42nd annual Bobby Jones Open will be held in 2020 at the Warren Golf Course in South Bend, Ind., on the Notre Dame University campus. Dates will be determined soon.
 
Currently, there are more than 400 Bobs from 38 states and 4 countries on the roster. Members gather once a year to celebrate a shared love of the game, friendship and to support an important cause. All proceeds go to research and scholarships for those with Syringomyelia.
 
More Bobby Joneses are always welcome to join. If you are named Bobby Jones or you know someone who might be interested in learning more, contact the Chairman Chris Jones [LINK “Chairman Chris Jones” to the email address: [email protected]] or call 248-892-7185.