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Johnny Vardeman: Just Mr. Jones to local teen girl happened to be golfing legend
AP 570403069
Bobby Jones, left, looks over the Augusta National course on April 3, 1957, along with Cliff Roberts, Masters tournament chairman. - photo by Horace Cort

Bobby Jones was the great Georgia golfer who won 33 tournaments, including 13 majors and the “Grand Slam” of his era.

He never turned professional, co-designed Augusta National Golf Course and inaugurated the Masters golf tournament there.

Jones was recognized internationally for his golfing achievements, and his name remains on the tips of tongues when people discuss the greatest golfers of all time.

But to Anne Thomas of Gainesville, growing up as a teenager knowing him as a family friend, “He was just plain Mr. Jones.” She didn’t realize his celebrity until later.

Anne’s parents Irene and Green Warren were close friends with Jones. “I don’t know how they became good friends,” Anne says, “but every Saturday they played gin rummy in a back room of the Jones’ home in Buckhead. If I ever needed my parents, and they weren’t home, I knew to go over there where they were playing gin rummy.”

The two men played golf together, too. Anne’s father, however, didn’t really get interested in playing until he and Jones together founded Peachtree Golf Club.

Jones had retired from competitive golf by the time Anne knew him. But he continued to be active in the sport. One of Anne’s friends was the Jones’ daughter, Mary Ellen. The two girls played golf at the Peachtree course while their fathers were working on it, “but that didn’t go very far,” Anne said. However, Anne played for many years in Gainesville and Highlands, N.C.

Mrs. Warren also played. Jones had misplaced one of his famous putters he called “Calamity Jane” when he told her, “I’ve looked everywhere for it, at Peachtree and Augusta, and nobody can find it.”

Mrs. Warren responded that he had left it in her golf bag. “It’s the worst looking club I ever saw,” she is said to have told him.

“Then just keep it,” Jones told her, and she became the owner of a famous Calamity Jane.

Jones’ original putter was described as beat up and rusty, its cracked hickory shaft repaired with glue. It is displayed in the clubhouse at Augusta National. Another Calamity Jane is in the United States Golf Association’s museum in Far Hills, N.J.

Jones, who was a full-time lawyer in Atlanta, retired from competitive golf at age 28. His playing career peaked during the 1920s.

The Warrens were so close to the Joneses that they stayed with him in Boston when he underwent surgery. Jones had trouble walking after that, later confined to a wheelchair and rode in a buggy during Masters appearances. He played competitively in the inaugural Masters, but after that participated only unofficially.

Jones loved the opera and St. Andrews, Anne Thomas remembers. St. Andrews was the golf course in Scotland where he won The Open in 1928 and became the first amateur to win that tournament in consecutive years. He also won the British Amateur at St. Andrews in 1930. The town later presented him a key to the city, at the time the only person to receive it other than Benjamin Franklin.

Jones, whom Green Warren called “Bub,” died in 1971.

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The Warrens were staying at Bobby Jones’ home at Augusta National once when Mrs. Warren heard something outside her window. She looked out and asked the man she saw, “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for my paint brush that Winston Churchill gave me,” former President Dwight Eisenhower replied. Ike was an avid golfer, frequent visitor to Augusta National and painted as a hobby.

Mrs. Warren was prominent in Atlanta’s Junior Service League. She was in charge of the gala presented before the premiere of “Gone With the Wind” at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta in 1939. She rubbed elbows with such luminaries as actors Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard, Olivia de Havilland, Vivien Leigh and author Margaret Mitchell.

Green Warren was a dentist, and the Good News Dental Clinic in Gainesville is named in his honor.

• • •

When Gainesville celebrated the opening of its golf course at the end of Riverside Drive in September 1920, Bobby Jones was guest of honor. Members of that early Chattahoochee Golf Club were allowed to tee off with Jones at the No. 1. Jones praised the course, although it was just nine holes, and “greens” were oiled sand. The clubhouse is where American Legion Post 7 stands today.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

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