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"Golf's Greatest Putt" is re-enacted 25 years after the 1929 Open

The Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. may well be the only club in the country where a 20-handicap member may find himself asked to fill out a foursome which includes two former National Open champions and a former National Amateur champion. Craig Wood and Mr. T. D. Armour are members as are Dick Chapman and Ted Bishop and, to carry on just a ways, so are Tom Robbins, Jimmy McHale and Joe Gagliardi. All down the membership, Winged Foot is distinguished by its furious devotion to golf.

If there was any one event which implanted Winged Foot's heritage, it was the 1929 National Open, the first championship to which the club was host. As is well known to all golfers and especially to those who read Grant-land Rice's superb story, "Golf's Greatest Putt," (SI, Aug. 16), that Open was eventually won by Bob Jones in a play-off with Al Espinosa after Jones had gained a tie by holing a mean sidehill putt of some 14 feet on the last green. That happened a quarter of a century ago, and last Saturday its silver anniversary was celebrated at Winged Foot.

It was a wonderfully mellow-autumn day and it was an evocative day and altogether the kind of a day which, rising miles above the big business and the social industry that are inseparable parts of golf, knocked you over with the full fragrance of golf, the game of golf. First there was a four-ball exhibition, with Bob Jones refereeing a match between four of his contemporaries, all former National Open winners—Craig Wood and Tommy Armour vs. Gene Sarazen and John Farrell. Wood and Sarazen hit the ball beautifully, Farrell holed a 40-footer, and Armour, the John Barrymore of golf, added just enough horseplay by sending Lou Galby, one of his assistants at Boca Raton, into a sandtrap to play an explosion shot for him. This was probably the first appearance in golf history of a pinch-hitter.

Then, with the spectators grouped around the 18th green, Bob Jones was asked to point out the spot where the cup was located on the final day of the 1929 Open. He did, and the green-keeper neatly cut a new hole on the old sidehill site. The members of the foursome came forward, one by one, spotted a ball where Jones' had lain some 14 feet from the cup, and tried to hole the putt—and since Jones was going to let his performance in 1929 represent him, they really tried. Armour went first. He missed, on the "pro's side." Wood's putt curled off the left-to-right roll a shade too fast. So did Sarazen's. Farrell just missed the lip on the left. At this juncture, Joe Dey of the U.S.G.A. introduced "a young lady" whom he felt Jones would be very happy to see again since she had helped him so much so often: "Calamity Jane," Bob's old putter. Using Calamity Jane, Claude Harmon, the home pro, took his crack at the putt, and missed. Sarazen tried again with Calamity Jane—no. Then Wood, Armour, Farrell, Harmon again, Sarazen once more, Findlay Douglas (our Amateur champion in '98), Joe Dey and Homer Johnson, the Winged Foot's president. They were all good putts but none of them dropped.

The presence of Jones, of course, was what gave the re-enactment its curious magic. His presence always does. Above and beyond his humor, his competence and his deep charm, there is in Bob Jones a strain of human greatness, something completely native and natural to him, as it is to a man like Churchill, and this quality communicates itself to all who are in his company and instantly enriches their lives. There was always something special about Jones. After sinking that 14-footer in 1929, for example, Bob went to the U.S.G.A. tent to find out what time his play-off with Al Espinosa was scheduled to begin next morning, Sunday. It was set for nine. "Why don't we start at 10?" Bob suggested. "Al will probably want to get to church."


JONES' FAMOUS PUTT, recorded in painting above, was attempted by (from top to bottom) Tommy Armour, Craig Wood, Gene Sarazen and Johnny Farrell. Jones (seated at left, in dark suit) watched as each of them just failed to drop it. At club dinner, Winged Foot presented Jones with silver plaque inscribed with Grantland Rice's SI story, "Golf's Greatest Putt."