in life, when Bobby Jones was crippled with syringomyelia,
a degenerative back disorder that eventually claimed his life,
he was asked how he coped not being able to play the game
he so dearly loved. Jones simply said that one must “play
the ball as it lies.”
emotional grace and acceptance did not come easily to Jones,
arguably one of the world’s most physically gifted natural
athletes of all time.
film Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius opened this week
in limited release. It is Jim Caviezel’s first performance
after his riveting lead role in Mel Gibson’s The
Passion of the Christ. In interviews promoting Stroke
of Genius Caviezel expressed his concern that his next
film following Passion would be an appropriate transition.
His depiction of Bobby Jones answers his concern.
Passion Caviezel promotes faith. In Stroke of
Genius he promotes family.
movie lets us see Jones as a sickly young child who falls
in love with golf.
from his earliest days on Atlanta’s East Lake golf course
Jones battles with his temper and his obsessive need to win.
During a tournament he misses a shot and throws his club,
hitting a woman. The officials tell him he can’t compete
again until he learns to control his anger.
struggles to find balance in his life. He writes to the officials,
apologizing for his behavior.
to behave himself, Jones internalizes his competitiveness.
Within seven years he earns two undergraduate degrees and
a law degree, marries the woman of his dreams, has children,
and in his spare time wins 62 percent of the national championships
he enters, including 13 of 21 tournaments, becoming the greatest
amateur player in the game’s history.
he struggles with his health and his fiercely restrained rage.
He often loses 20 lbs during a single tournament. And he drinks
to repress his emerging “neurological disorder”.
Jones is the only person to be given two ticker tape parades
in New York City. His wins, including golf’s Grand Slam,
a record still held today, and considered by many the greatest
individual accomplishment in the history of sport, come at
too great a cost for Jones. His trophies become less important
to him than his family and his love of the game.
age 28 Jones stuns the sports world by retiring from competition.
decision challenges our excessive accomplishment orientation
by rejecting not only a win at all costs mentality, but the
cash rewards associated with such success.
fierce competitor with a violent temper had transformed himself
from golf’s greatest competitor into golf’s greatest
gentleman. Even winning championships could not give Jones
the life he so desperately wanted.
Jones spent the remaining 40 years of his life a family man
and moderately successful lawyer. He expressed his love for
golf by giving us the Masters Golf Tournament, played at his
masterpiece, the Augusta National Golf Club which he founded
our age of celebrity, family (along with faith) is ridiculed
by current culture. But to Jones, and more recently to fellow
athlete Pat Tillman, family came to mean more than trophies
and fame. It always meant more than money.