DALTON -- The legendary career of the great Bobby Jones has been remembered this week with the U.S. Open being played at historic Merion Golf Club. It was there that Jones completed his unprecedented 1930 sweep of golf's top four events of the era by capturing the U.S. Amateur Championship.
So, the recent unveiling of a plaque commemorating a significant moment in Wahconah Country Club's history comes at a good time. It is believed Jones played his final round of golf at the Dalton club on Aug. 15, 1948.
"We thought it was time for that to be properly recognized and acknowledged," said Wahconah member John Hoke, who joined with fellow club past president John Enright and former Wahconah head professional Paul Mitchell to confirm the claim and commemorate it with the plaque. Hoke says the effort was Mitchell's idea.
"Paul had a great idea when he came up with the name for our Little Brown Jug tournament 41 years ago. It took him 41 years to come up with another one," joked Hoke.
A painting by artist Rene Clark of the foursome on that day in 1948 -- Wahconah member Bill O'Connell, who was a friend of Jones, Bruce Crane and Rankin Furey -- and a note hand-written note by Jones that states "This was my last effort, sorry it wasn't a better one" hangs in the U.S. Golf Association's museum in Far Hills, N.J. A copy of both are on a wall in the restaurant at Wahconah Country Club, but Hoke, Enright and Mitchell felt more should be done.
"Berkshire Hills is a [A.W.] Tillinghast course and Taconic has a plaque recognizing the hole-in-one Jack Nicklaus made there [on No. 14 during a practice round for the 1958 Junior Amateur]," Hoke said, "but we want people to know that one of the all-time greats played his last round at our course."
The trio meticulously studied a barrage of letters between the USGA, Wahconah and others in an effort to authenticate that the round at Wahconah was, indeed, Jones' last.
"We checked into the credibility of it and everything we have seen indicates that it was his last round," Hoke said.
Jones had made a commitment to play in a four-ball match at the club on that August day. The previous day he learned from a doctor in Boston that he had a spinal condition that would keep him from playing any more golf and shortly confined him to a wheelchair.
The plaque sits on a slope behind the ninth green. At the time of the round, Wahconah was just a nine-hole course, so the par-4 nine turned out to be the last hole Jones played.
It is hoped that the plaque will also serve as a valuable golf history lesson for those who play at Wahconah.
"Most golfers know who Bobby Jones was, but there are a lot who don't," Hoke said.
Jones, who remained an amateur during his entire playing career, also won a U.S. Amateur title at Merion in 1924. He retired from competitive golf at the age of 28, only two months after completing his Grand Slam at Merion. Mitchell points out that at the time the feat was called the Impregnable Quadrilateral. Jones won four U.S. Opens, three British Opens, five U.S. Amateurs and one British Amateur in his short career.
Of course, his stamp will always be on the game for founding Augusta National and the Masters.
So, when you finish the front time the next time you take on Wahconah, tip your cap to the great Bobby Jones.