Chapter One: From Ellis Island to the Ivy League

3    “like Jesus Christ”  RTJ Sr. to AK, 14-15 Feb. 1991, USGA Oral History Collection, p. 14.

4    “place of residence”  Not much is known about the grandparents of Robert Trent Jones. In a letter dated 5 October 1931, written to his future wife Ione Tefft Davis while she was on a European holiday with her family, Jones wrote her the following after her visit to Wales: “I wish that you had been able to see my Grandfather Jones. He is really nice, from what I remember. By the way, he was born in Wrexham [the largest town in north Wales, situated between the Welsh mountains and the Lower Dee Valley, close to the border of Cheshire, England], and my Grandmother Jones was born in the village of Penmaenmawr, near Conway Castle [a massive stone fortress built in the late 13th century during King Edward I’s second Welsh campaign, on the country’s northern coast].” In the same letter Jones explained to Ione that his brother Ernest was born in Ince, but that he, Robert, was born in Aspull, a village within the borough of Wigan, which is today part of Greater Manchester.  “Funny,” he admitted to Ione, “I never was interested enough in England or Wales to find out where all my family was from. If not a born Yankee, I sure am a loyal one.”  Jones’s maternal grandparents, Jane’s mother and father, were English and from Wigan.

4    “moment of arrival in America”  There remains some question as to what ship from young Robert Jones to America and at which U.S. port he arrived and when. The records of the Ellis Island Foundation clearly show that Robert, his mother Jane, and brother Ernest arrived at Ellis Island on the RMS Caronia on 29 Apr. 1912. In the USGA’s oral history interview conducted by Alice Kendrick, Jones clearly states “I came through Ellis Island” and “I remember going by the Statue of Liberty” (RTJ Sr. to AK, p. 15). Curiously, however, in his application for citizenship, Jones indicated that he entered the U.S. through the port of Boston on 28 Mar. 1912 aboard RMS Franconia. On the strength of the Ellis Island records, along with Jones’s later testimony, I have concluded that Jones arrived in New York City aboard the Caronia on 29 Apr. 1912.

5    “village of freight cars and pianos” Mary Conner, “A Brief History of East Rochester,” accessed on 28 Apr. 2012, at For the history of Merchants Despatch Transportation, see John H. White, Jr., The American Railroad Freight Car (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); on the Aerolian Piano company, see “Aerolian,” in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: MacMillan, 2001).

6    “the Country Club of Rochester” On the history of golf in Rochester, see Bob Marcotte, “From Tee to Green: Rochester at Golf’s Center Stage,” Rochester History Vol. LXI (Winter 2003): 1: 1-35. On the origins of the Country Club of Rochester, see Through Half a Century: Commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Country Club of Rochester (Rochester, NY, 1945), pp. 3-5, and Howard C. Hosmer, Year of the Diamond, being an account of the first 75 years of the Country Club of Rochester (Rochester, NY: Country Club of Rochester, 1971.

6    “Country clubs were sprouting up” For incisive analyses of the history of the country club in America and the role of golf in that history, see James M. Mayo, The American Country Club: Its Origin and Development (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998), and Richard Moss, Golf and the American Country Club (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

6    “prosperous and of high repute” quoted in Howard C. Hosmer, From Little Acorns: The Story of Oak Hill, 1901-1976 (Rochester, NY: Oak Hill Country Club, 1977), pp. 6-7.

   “growing fast within the middle class” Marcotte, “From Tee to Green: Rochester at Golf’s Center Stage,” Rochester History, 5.

6    “an operational leg of the Erie Canal” Blake McKelvey, A Growing Legacy: An Illustrated History of Rochester’s Parks (City of Rochester, 1988), pp. 14-16.

7    “second nine holes opened at Genesee Valley Park” “New Links at Rochester,” New York Times, 8 May 1917.

7    “not by Ross” There is an outstanding biography of Donald Ross, written by Bradley S. Klein, the architecture editor for Golfweek magazine: Discovering Donald Ross: The Architect and His Golf Courses (New York: Wiley, 2001). The author wishes to thank Dr. Klein for pointing out that 3,000 men who were building Ross golf courses in the U.S. by the mid-1920s were not Ross company employees.

7    “improve its existing course”  Marcotte, “From Tee to Green: Rochester at Golf’s Center Stage,” Rochester History, 5-7.

   “The girl’s last name was Hagen” RTJ Sr. to AK, p. 16.

   “the world’s most celebrated golfer” see Walter Hagen, The Walter Hagen Story, by the Haig Himself, As Told to Margaret Seaton Heck (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1956.)

9    “first amateur to win the championship” On Ouimet’s remarkable victory with many references to Hagen’s play in the 1913 U.S. Open championship, see Mark Frost’s wonderful book The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf (New York: Hyperion, 2002).

9    “greatest golfer who ever lived—bar none” For a concise analysis of Hagen’s remarkable career, see Kirsch, GIA, pp. 85-91.

9    “as the car swept past carrying Walter Hagen” RTJ Sr. with Larry Dennis, GMC (New York: Sammis Publishing Corp., 1988), p. 72.

9    “get involved with golf in some big way” RTJ Sr. to AK, 14-15 Feb. 1991, USGA OHC, pp. 16-17.

   “Nobody could imitate Hagen,” RTJ Sr. to AK, 14-15 Feb. 1991, USGA OHC, p. 17. Walter Hagen’s immigrant and working class family background was similar to Jones’s.  Of Dutch descent, Hagen’s father worked as a millwright and blacksmith in the same East Rochester railroad car shop that employed William Jones. Together with wife Louise Balks, a German immigrant, William Hagen raised second-born Walter and four daughters in a modest home on a small plot backing up to a natural park called Corbett’s Glen; from there, with a couple good hits with a “brassie,” Walter could almost get to the far northeast side of the Country Club of Rochester, less than a mile away.  Although as a caddy Walter was often treated with kindness and favor by members of the country club, as Andrew Christy’s assistant professional Hagen the teenager began to feel the sting of social prejudice. In the early decades of American golf, nearly all the club pros came from the lower classes; the great majority of them were British immigrants. As much as club members may have wanted to improve their golf games, they generally looked down on their pros—who, after all, were their mere employees—perceiving them as coarse, unmannerly, and altogether needing to behave subserviently in the company of their superiors. When Hagen played in tournaments, it was always at the discretion of his home club, which meant only a few events per year from which he could earn extra money. Even when he won championships, which he did with increasing regularity, both the tournament programs and the newspapers would list him as “Walter C. Hagen, Country Club of Rochester,” almost as if he were chattel belonging to the club. A young man like Hagen could stand this second-class treatment and pervading attitude of condescension for only so long. Following the 1918 season, he could stomach it no longer; he quit his job at Rochester and accepted the head professional’s job at Oakland Hills in Michigan. He hoped that the prejudice in Detroit would not be as bad as in Rochester, yet it proved to be worse. Immediately upon winning his second Open title in 1919 (held at Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Massachusetts, another new Ross design), Hagen broke free and resigned his Detroit job. Never again would he serve as a club professional. Henceforth, the greatest golfer of his era would play all his tournaments as “Walter C. Hagen, unattached.” (On Walter Hagen, see Herbert Warren Wind, “Sir Walter,” in The Story of American Golf, pp. 118-132, and Stephen Lowe, “Walter Hagen: Baron of the Golden Age,” Digital Commons @ Olivet (Olivet Nazarene University), 1-1-2003, accessed on 28 Apr. 2012 at In doing so, the Haig created the modern full-time touring golf professional. (For a brief survey of the establishment of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA), see Kirsch, Golf in America, pp. 51-53. For a succinct treatment of the history of golf professionals in America, see Mike Bryan, “The Professionals—A Threefold Triumph,” in George Peper, ed., Golf in America, pp. 52-77.)  Occasionally, Hagen returned to Rochester for an exhibition match or just to visit. His departure from the club in 1918 had not been vitriolic; in fact, his father worked part-time as a greenkeeper for the course; and his reputation as America’s best golfer—and a “product” of the Country Club of Rochester—softened whatever leftover resentment existed on the part of club members. A couple of times that the Haig returned, young Robert Jones got the chance to caddy for him. Jones also caddied for Harry Vardon in an exhibition match against Hagen and Ted Ray. “I was very much taken with Vardon’s smooth swing,” Jones later recalled, “and, when I started playing, I tried to imitate his graceful and sweet swing. Nobody could imitate Hagen with that big sway of his body he had!” (GMC, p. 72; RTJ Sr. to AK, pp. 17-19.)

10    “picture I saw of him in the papers” RTJ Sr. quoted in HWW, “Profiles: Linksland and Meadowland,” The New Yorker (4 Aug. 1951): 31.

10    “Hillcrest Golf Course”  The little Genundewah golf course was also notable for what lay immediately on its southwest periphery: a complex of 57 housing units known as “Concrest,” made entirely of concrete (so as to be fireproof) and “bestowed” at a very low sale price upon some of East Rochester’s neediest laboring families by local philanthropist, Kate Gleason (1865-1933), the first woman graduate of Cornell University’s Sibley School of Engineering and co-proprietor with her brother of East Rochester’s Gleason Works, famous for its gear-cutting machines.[i] A couple of Jones’s school chums and fellow caddies lived at Concrest and often played golf with Jones at Genunedewah.  Golf’s Magnificent Challenge, p. 72. On Kate Gleason and the Concrest housing development in East Rochester, see Donovan A. Shilling, “The Extraordinary Kate Gleason: How She Set the World in Gear,” The Crooked Lake Review, May 1995, accessed on 1 May 2012, at On the Genundewah golf course, see “Club History, Monroe Golf Club,” accessed on 27 Apr. 2012, at The introduction to this internet story reads: “The history of the Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, New York, actually began in 1920, when a committee of members from the long-since vanished Genundewah Golf Club of East Rochester were charged with finding a new site for the club after its lease could not be renewed.”

11    “the ball really backed up on the greens” GMC, p. 72.

11    “held by the single stalks of wheat” ibid.

11    “shot 69, a course record” RTJ Sr. to AK, pp. 17-18.

11    “life of a tournament golfer was not for me”  GMC, pp. 72-74, and RTJ Sr. to AK, p. 19.

12    “the new Oak Hill Country Club” Marcotte, “From Tee to Green: Rochester at Golf’s Center Stage,” 5-6. See also Klein, Discovering Donald Ross, pp. 22-23, 162-164, 257, and 292-296.

13    “didn’t know what to do” GMC, p. 74.

13    “a real instructor”  The phrase “a real instructor” was attributed to Jones in an article “Golf Club Members Elect Directors,” The Sodus Record, 24 Oct. 1924. The author wishes to thank Mr. David Jones, head professional at Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club, for providing him with documents pertaining to the history of the Sodus Bay golf club.

13    “gorgeous property for golf” GMC, p. 75. In Architects of Golf: A Survey of Golf Course Design from its Beginnings to the Present, with an Encyclopedic Listing of Golf Course Architects and their Courses, A Completely Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), authors Geoffrey S. Cornish and Ronald Whitten (p. 308 and p. 587) credit RTJ Sr. with the design of the original nine holes at “Sodus Point Heights Golf Club,” and give the year as 1926. This is mistaken. As stated in the text above, the course opened for play on 28 Aug. 1925. Moreover, there is no evidence that Jones designed the course; in fact, there is a great deal of secondary evidence to suggest the course pre-existed Jones’s coming there, initially for the exhibition match against Wilbur Jack and subsequently for taking the job of professional, greenkeeper, and club manager. In Golf’s Magnificent Challenge (New York: McGraw Hill, 1989), Jones clearly states that, prior to the design of his first golf course, Midvale Golf Club in Penfield, New York, in 1930, he did do “a couple of remodeling jobs.” Those jobs could very well have included work at Sodus, though club records indicate that Jones “returned in 1931 and changed the number 4 green, number 3 tee, and lengthened the old number 2 green” (The History of Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club, Inc., n.d., ca. 1979, p. 2). In none of his company’s listings of all the courses Jones had designed or remodeled is Sodus Bay ever listed. This is a key point in the question of whether Jones laid out the original nine holes (3,078 yards, par 36, with one par-3 and one par-5) at Sodus: Jones was never shy about taking credit for any golf course design he was involved with; one would think if he had done any major design or redesign work at Sodus, he would have listed it among his courses. On the other hand, in 1966 Geoffrey Cornish (1914-2011), co-author of Architects of Golf, remodeled the original nine holes at Sodus (four holes of the original routing were kept, including #1 and #2) and designed a new nine for what became the existing Sodus Point Heights Golf Club. Perhaps Cornish knew something about the early history of Sodus that has not shown up in the records of Sodus Bay or the records of Robert Trent Jones Sr. Like Jones, Cornish began his career, in 1935, working for Canadian architect Stanley Thompson while Jones and Thompson were still working together. Jones and Cornish got to know each other well. Perhaps Cornish heard something about Jones’s time at Sodus Bay that explains why Cornish (and Whitten) listed the first nine holes at Sodus Bay as a Jones design. In this author’s opinion, however, if Jones did any design work at Sodus, it was limited to minor remodeling.    

14    “whetted Jones’s appetite” A note on the Jones-Tippett relationship is worthwhile. After World War I, Tippett worked for a short while as club manager for Ashford Manor Golf Club in Middlesex, England; after immigrating, he became secretary of the Meadowbrook Gold Club on Long Island. Besides designing the resort course at Hollywood Beach, Tippett, in 1927, also designed Montauk Hills Golf Club on the wind-blown far eastern end of Long Island’s South Fork; in that imaginative and expensive project bordered by Block Island Sound, Gardeners Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, he was assisted by America’s greatest pioneering golf course architect of the early twentieth century Charles Blair MacDonald, though MacDonald took no credit for the design. The early connection between Tippett and Jones ultimately paid off in an ironic dividend. After enjoying a roaring start, Tippett’s course at Montauk Downs fell into a long spiral of neglect and disrepair following the Wall Street Crash.  In the 1960s, a new owner, the Bank of Israel, commissioned RTJ Sr. to re-do the course totally, which by 1968 he had done, very successfully, with the help of his son Rees and his junior associate Roger Rulewich. In 1980 the State of New York purchased the course and turned it into Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course. In 2002 Rees Jones finished another major remodeling of the course. Today, Golfweek magazine ranks it as the 34th Best Municipal Course in America and the 13th Best Public Course in the state of New York.

15    “improving each round” GMC, p. 74.

16  “’C’ grade in public speaking,” Academic transcript for Robert Jones, 1926-1930, Cornell University, copy in JP, CUA.

16    “O’Leary Perintons” For a story on the O’Leary Perintons basketball team on which Jones played in the early to mid-1920s, “Tops in the Art of Dribble and Dodge Boys of Yesteryear,” East Rochester Herald, 20 Mar. 1936, 1. The accompanying picture of the basketball team shows Jones on the front row, far left. He looks by the far the shortest and slimmest member of the team.

16    “my future wife” GMC, p. 75.

17    “visualize in my mind’s eye”  RTJ Sr. to AK, pp. 23-24.