The Open Championship begins tonight at Royal Lytham & St Anne's in Lancashir, England. It is of course the course where Bob Charles won the Open Championship in 1963.
But there is sad news on the eve of the tournament. New Zealand's arguably best-ever amateur golfer, Stuart "The Emperor" Jones has died.
Stuart Jones was a true amateur, unlike the professionals-in-training who call themselves amateurs today. He played golf primarily for recreation, and even though he won two professional tournaments in New Zealand during his lengthy career, he never toyed with the idea of joining the ranks of those who played for money.
Jones' long contribution to the Hastings Golf Club at Bridge Pa was recently recognised. The Hawkes Bay Today devoted an editorial to the event; check this out:
It's not a case of the Emperor having no clothes, or in this case, black tie, but the most famous member of the Hastings Golf Club will not be present when 100 years of play at Bridge Pa* is celebrated with a dinner at the Hawke's Bay Opera House on Saturday.
Stuart Jones, dubbed "The Emperor" during an amateur career which ultimately saw him inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, is feeling his 87th year at the moment.
So family members will represent the seven-time New Zealand Amateur champion, who also took out Canadian and Australian titles.
The club has ensured, however, Jones' place in golf's history is well-remembered during the latest national championship, which starts at the course south of Hastings today.
A Jones memorabilia exhibition is on display in the clubhouse.
Current club president and former Hawke's Bay representative Howard Padman, who will speak at Saturday's dinner, would testify to Jones' greatness. Padman played with him the day he shot an 11-under par round of 60 on the course.
Guest speaker, and one of only two New Zealanders to win a professional major, Sir Bob Charles also has cause to remember Jones well.
He was a teammate at the first world amateur team's event at St Andrews in 1958, the competition known as the Eisenhower Trophy.
The 1963 British Open winner's return to Bridge Pa is appropriate with Heinz Watties also making a return of sorts, as sponsor of the Black Tie Dinner. Watties sponsored eight professional tournaments at the course, Sir Bob winning four of them, the first in the inaugural year of 1963 and his last in 1968.
Who won in 1965? None other than an amateur named Stuart Jones.
Those tournaments brought the cream of golf to this region, former major winners such as Australians Peter Thomson and Kel Nagle, and Englishman, Tony Jacklin.
We had the privilege of seeing The Emperor play many years ago at the Manawatu Golf Club in Palmerston North. He had a wonderful swing, could putt with the best of them, and could have had a successful professional career had he chosen, just as his 1958 Eisenhower compatriot Sir Bob Charles did.
The British golfing public has a healthy respect for the history of the game. We are sure that Stuart Jones will be remembered fondly as the world's oldest Major tees off later this evening.