Second Annual Bobby Jones Classic for CSF Recap


Looking back at the event from 2-3 weeks, the single best part was the people, both the participants in the great benefit tournament and the many others at East Lake who worked behind the scenes. The event introduced interesting and serious people from two different parts of the country to each other in a beautiful place to share their common interests in golf and Bobby Jones and to become more informed about the foundation leading the fight against syringomyelia, the spinal cord disease that caused his progressive paralysis.

Monday May 20 turned out to be a beautiful day and old East Lake sparkled as brightly as it ever had. Everything but the weather was due to the hard work of many hard working staff members who were invisible to the golfers but well known to Tournament Director Dave Purdie. Tom Cousins’ and Rees Jones’ masterpiece was looking a little droopy Sunday evening after a torrential rain – the tops of many bunkers were partially eroded and the course was thoroughly soaked, but when we all arrived early Monday, it was back to normal - perfect. Everyone reading this who was there will want to give thanks to the President and General Manager of ELGC, Rick Burton, Superintendent Ralph Kepple, Hospitality chief Angela Head, Chef Michael Diele and their staffs for making it all work so well. These men and women illustrate what Tom loves to say about East Lake - that it’s like taking a ride back to 1917 on a time machine to an era of better manners and more graceful living that first put the Atlanta Athletic Club and East Lake on the world’s stage.

This was the second annual benefit for the Chiari & Syringomyelia Foundation which, in only 6 years, has grown in influence and resources enough to award research grants to find a cure and improve patient care of those affected and to support CSF’s teaching mission - informing the public and the medical community about these paralyzing neurologic diseases.

Board Chair Paul Farrell and Executive Director Dorothy Poppe graciously welcomed us all in the Georgian Room of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where the contingent from the New York area first met representatives of the other big group from the Southeast that included at least four indigenous persons, Bob Jones IV, Natalie Jones-Lacey, RM???, and Dr. Linton Hopkins, all members of a rarely seen subgroup of southerners known simply as natives of Atlanta.  We met on the spot downtown exactly on what was claimed to be the highest point in Atlanta, c1086 ft above sea level. The speaker left out that the city also sits on the Eastern Continental Divide and that rainwater falling on the west side of Peachtree flows into the Gulf, far way from drops heading into the ocean after falling a few inches away on the eastern side of the white center line.

We were asked to imagine that we were in Atlanta five years before 1917 on Saturday, September 16, 1922. This was the date 20 yr old Bobby Jones shot the lowest score of his entire life, a magical 9 under 63 at East Lake, where he had grown up. We were told the street car heading out to East Lake from downtown started a few hundred yards downhill to the south from where we were and that the world premier of GMTW occurred about 100 feet away in the same direction at the Lowe’s Grand Theater (probably not present in 1922), and that two architectural gems that are only a few yards farther down the street – the Candler Building (1906) and Atlanta’s Flatiron Bldg from 1887, a few years older that New York’s. Mentioning that fact pleased the native at the podium more than most others present.

Because of the favorable weather report, everyone was in a good mood and the efficient hotel staff, who passed delicious hors d’oeuvres, and the open bar didn’t hurt. Everyone went to bed that night dreaming of great shots and holed putts the next day.

Weather forecasts are frequently wrong so those players who woke up early Monday were worried by the grey sky, but some knew the weather at East Lake would be fine, as it usually is. They were not disappointed – the day after the storm turned out to be gorgeous with lighter air and big, fluffy cumulous clouds.

During breakfast, two members of the crack Alexa Stirling Putting Competition, former Jones Scholars Steve Cannon and Rob Mallard, turned the large practice green by the lake into a putting contest practice round. First was a 75 ft downhill breaking putt similar to, but not as nasty as, the real one on 18 coming up later and then they directed golfers back up the hill with a left-to-right 40 footer like Bobby made on 18 at Interlachen to win the 1930 US Open. The preview ended with a sneaky 12 ft slider like his famous putt on Winged Foot’s 18th in the open the year before.

The modified scramble format was explained to the eager golfers by Head Professional Chad Parker, then they all happily headed to their assigned tees, some thinking of the great trophy, others simply glad to be there. There was great relief that Dave had successfully arranged the special cart for Paul Farrell and that the course had dried out well enough to use carts, because several others wouldn’t have been able to play without them.

There was even a cart for two seniors to ride wherever they pleased, like officials at the Masters. Mostly they followed the team of Mike’s grandson and Brendon Doyle, Merritt Dyke, Todd McGarity and Jones Scholar James Watson, and there were some thrills. Brendon won the longest drive contest on #7 (he advanced the marker 50 yards), then drove to just off the back of the par 4 eighth. James sank the 20 footer for a team best ball of eagle 2!

The temperature rose from spring-like in the morning to midsummer levels in the afternoon so the players were bushed after the golf, especially those from up north, so they were happy to stay cool inside, only venturing out to the 18th to make their one putt for the Alexa Stirling Cup, then heading back into the ‘sweet air’ of modern air conditioning. That luxury came to the planet long after 1922 and is the real reason for the ongoing boom in Atlanta’s population. Atlantans love to brag about how much cooler our higher elevation makes us in the summer, but we all know, “It’s not just the temp, it’s the humidity.” AC fixes both.

The putting committee of former Jones Scholars was efficient and the energy level around 18 during the contest was high despite the heat because of the shade of the oaks and the fresh, happy faces of guests who came out only for the reception. They arrived at the same moment the overheated golfers headed inside. This group of fresh recruits included Drs. Levey and Juncos, Emory neurologists who had put in full days in clinic while the group of neurosurgeons enjoyed a happy day of playing golf. That doctor group was a lot more relaxed than the newly arrived, and neurosurgeon Nelson Oyesiku proved it when he strolled up to the top of 18 and took hold of the hickory shafted model of Bobby’s famous putter, Calamity Jane. He smiled at the gutta percha balls, took one look at the treacherous double-breaking 75 footer on the slick green and calmly stroked his ball right in. There was wild cheering by his friends and slumping shoulders by those who had come close.

Two youngsters stole the show at the 18th – 8 yr old Charles Reed was dressed as young Bobby with a 1922-like cap and plus fours and 7 yr old Cory Cannon, who had more fun out there than anyone. He was in putting heaven with an endless supply of balls and someone by the hole to catch and return every one.

The final reception filled the banquet hall and the wide hallway nearby was the perfect place for the silent auction and several posters that included the one made by Charles Reed for his school on Bobby. The reception featured another open bar, a great buffet, warm thanks to everyone and awards dispensed by Paul and Dorothy and two unique featured speakers. Bob Jones IV told us about how he and the rest of the family had come to learn about, and decide to endorse and allow the use of their famous name, to support the best medical foundation fighting his grandfather’s disease. His short answer was, “No one can resist Dorothy Poppe for two reasons - her son actually has syringomyelia so she’s seen it up close and knows how poorly informed most doctors are about it. Also, she is charming and persistent.” 

Bob was followed up front by the man who knows more about Bobby Jones than anyone, Sid Matthew from Tallahassee. Sid had arranged for a collage of giant photos of young Bobby to be shown during the tournament and reception but when it was his turn to speak, he chose to tell us about the great champion’s non-golfing accomplishments, things he did that endeared him to his friends and to his community, a much smaller Atlanta. These included his career as a successful lawyer, his work for charities in Atlanta and his WWII military service, even landing at Normandy just after D-Day as an Army legal and intelligence officer.

Dorothy and Paul graciously thanked all those not seen at the reception who had worked so hard the evening before to make East Lake perfect. Then she handed out awards to those who simply followed the example set by Bob Jones IV, her tournament committee. She made sure each one heard their own round of applause, which by itself induced a private commitment to volunteer next year if needed.

Finally, it was time to award the three silver trophies. They had been displayed up front all evening but everyone had seen Dave’s big scorecard so the winners already knew they were destined for ‘trophy-immortality.’ Before their names were called, neurosurgeon Nelson Oyesiku accepted the Alexa Stirling Cup for his winning putt on 18 and had a beaming smile for about 5 minutes, until a member of the committee asked for it back – to get his name engraved. He reluctantly gave it up. The names of the winning foursome were announced next and flash bulbs popped (correction – it was all digital) when they stood together with smiles of tired delight. Their names were Bud Cleary, Dwayne Sherland, Edward Dolan, and Mike Burns.

As everyone left, farewells were exchanged, and 99% said to themselves as they got in their cars, “I’m coming back next year – those people are serious, the trophies are great, this place is beautiful and it’s all for an important cause.”

Linton C. Hopkins
June 1, 2013

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Dorothy, I am sitting here still awestruck by the amazing event I had the honor of participating in on Monday.  As you know, as a Jones Scholar, I was the guest of the estimable Dr. Hopkins.  I am always breath taken when I am a guest at East Lake and have the joy of walking the hallowed grounds battered old sticks in hand.  God bless you and your efforts and please let me know if I can help you on the ground here in my city. Gratefully, Rob Mallard

Thank you Dorothy, I had a terrific time at the tournament. Thank you for all your hard work, it paid off.  Jack Pryor.

I had a great time at the BJC. It was exceptionally well done and the closing ceremony was the highest of the event. George Morgan