Hopkins writes of Bobby Jones'
love for East Lake
The life and career of world-renowned golfer and Atlantan Bobby Jones has been well documented in several volumes. Down the Fairway, The Bobby Jones Story, Golf is My Game and Bobby Jones on Golf are available to all who wish to learn more about this legendary figure.
For Emory neurologist and self-described "bad golfer" Linton Hopkins, however, those books lack a critical and fascinating story: the relationship between Jones and the spot he referred to as "my golf course," the East Lake Golf Club.
The legendary Jones humor
In his recently published book, Where Bobby Learned to Play, Hopkins documents the stories of several longtime East Lake members who knew Jones well during the heyday of East Lake, which is about a 15-minute drive from Emory. Jones learned to play golf at East Lake as a child and, because of his great love for East Lake, played there continually even after he became a famed champion.
When Hopkins joined the East Lake Country Club several years ago, he "realized there were some older men there who had directly known this famous man and were perfectly willing to tell anybody stories about their relationship with Jones."
After reading books that had been written about Jones and by the golfer himself, Hopkins realized that the stories he had heard at East Lake were not recorded in any of those books. "And I knew that these men were not going to last forever," he said.
Many of the stories that Hopkins documented are humorous tales about Jones. One story recounts the time when Jones was at a hole surrounded by water. Jones said to another player, who was apprehensively approaching the tee, "I finally figured out how to play No. 6." The other golfer urged Jones to share his secret. Jones replied, "Use a water ball."
"He meant for the player not to use a good ball because he was going to knock it into the water," Hopkins explained. "Bobby Jones had a wonderful sense of humor, but he was much more reserved than his father," referred to by fellow golfers as Col. Bob Jones. Hopkins said that the elder Jones' penchant for salty language on the golf course was legendary. "He was never mean, but he loved to use hard language," Hopkins said. "People said he could cuss for five minutes and never repeat himself."
Preserving East Lake
In addition to recording stories that otherwise would never have been documented, Hopkins also wanted his book to be part of the effort to save East Lake, which had declined in recent years, echoing the economic decline of the surrounding neighborhood. "An out-of-town agency was going to buy it," Hopkins said. "Those of us who loved it were scurrying to think of things to do to preserve it."
For about six months, Hopkins rushed to compile all the information he had gathered on East Lake into a format that could be used to publicize the plight of the golf course.
"Right when I had finished doing that, along came [Atlanta businessman and Emory trustee] Tom Cousins, who took it over and really fixed it up," Hopkins said. "I stopped everything and sighed a big sigh of relief. Then when I saw the unbelievable things that were being done to the property, I got interested once again in trying to present what I had as a part of Tom Cousins' gift to the community, but not connected in any formal way. I asked him if he would allow the book to be sold at East Lake." Cousins agreed, and the book is now on sale at both East Lake and the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead.
Hopkins is delighted to have contributed his book to Cousins' larger effort, which has included a complete restoration of the golf course to the way it was configured during Jones' day. Plans also call for demolition of the nearby East Lake Meadows public housing complex, which will be replaced with new housing available to residents of various income levels. The project comes at a time when many new residents are moving into the East Lake area and renovating stately older homes that have fallen into disrepair.
A story of place
It was only a few years ago that a friend first took Hopkins, an Atlanta native, over to East Lake. He became fascinated with the rich history of the course. "I think this is a story of place, at least for me and the people who go to the golf course," Hopkins said. "To the person who goes there-or to any special place-in every season, every tree is different every time, different birds fly over, and so on. There's a lot going on to take pleasure from.
"It's also a story about behavior," Hopkins continued. "Bobby Jones was a remarkable person. I never knew him, but in talking to people about him and getting the true stories of what he did, I've really come to admire his behavior. His golf was like Mozart composing music. But his behavior is the thing that everybody can relate to. Jones was a giant and a great model of grace and charm."
Editor's note: For information on purchasing Hopkins' book, call the Atlanta History Center at (404) 814-4075.
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