Royal Lytham & St. Annes has a storied history and it will certainly grow this week. The first time the Open Championship was held there in 1926 Bobby Jones won his first of three Opens. Jones was certainly the greatest amateur ever and one of the icons of the game. Any link to Jones is treasured and Lytham is no different.
Taken from the official website of Royal Lytham & St. Annes is this account of how Jones came to play in the 1926 Open.
Mr Jones wins the Open at St Anne’s in 1926
Jones came over to Great Britain for the 1926 Walker Cup and the Amateur at Muirfield. His original schedule was to return to the USA after the Walker Cup but after losing in the quarter finals of the Amateur to a local player, Andrew Jamieson, he extended his stay to play in the Open.
It was the first time there were to be regional qualifying events and Jones entered the one held at Sunningdale. In contrast to his indifferent play at Muirfield, his play in the qualifying rounds was sublime, putting together his lowest ever rounds in a major medal competition 66-68 for a two round total of 134. His 66 is considered by many to be the nearest thing to a perfect round ever played by anyone.
However once the Open was underway his form was once again vulnerable. There was a strong American element both professional and amateur and after the first round Jones was four behind the 68 from Walter Hagen. In the second round Hagen fell away with a 77 and after another 72 Jones was tied for the lead on 144. In those days the last two rounds were played on the Friday so that the club professionals could be back at their home clubs on the Saturday to attend to the needs of the members!
By coincidence Jones was paired with American professional Al Watrous whose third round 68 put him two shots ahead of Jones and four ahead of Hagen. To ease their tension the two went back to the Majestic hotel between the two rounds and on their return to the course Jones discovered that he had forgotten his competitor’s ticket. A fastidious security guard, not recognising Jones and not inclined to accept his explanation, refused him entry. Unfazed, Jones went to a pay gate and gained entry as a spectator. He is the only Open Champion who had to pay to play.
Watrous was still two shots ahead with five holes to play but after sixteen he and Jones were level. By now the Open had effectively become a match play struggle between the two and Watrous held the advantage when he hit a fine tee shot down the seventeenth after Jones had pulled his onto a sandy waste. Watrous played first putting his ball onto the front edge of the green. Unable to see the green from where his ball was, Jones had to walk across to the far side of the fairway to weigh up his options. Returning to his ball which lay on hard sand he took his mashie – the equivalent of today’s five iron – and after little delay played a shot of unbelievable quality pitching his ball directly onto the green some 175 yards away. Watrous, now rattled, three putted giving Jones the lead for the first time. At the last Jones got a steady four as Watrous dropped another shot.
There were however many other players yet to finish and a strongly finishing Hagen came to the last hole needing a two to tie. Ever the showman, Hagen first walked all the way up the green then back to his ball, sending his caddie forward to attend the flag. There was to be no miracle, though his ball did almost pitch straight into the hole before running on into the bunker at the back of the green, finishing with a six to end in fourth place.
Jones won the first of his three Opens and after sailing back to the USA on the Aquitania was given a ticker tape reception in New York.