Sidney Matthew never wanted to be a librarian. Twenty-five years of research materials on legendary golfer Bobby Jones stacked up in his home, and soon enough, journalists and filmmakers stopped by to sort through his collection.
As the pre-eminent biographer of Jones, who cofounded Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, Matthew welcomed others who took interest in the golfer’s story. He wanted even more people to dig into his files, the product of countless research hours.
Matthew, 62, has donated his entire research collection – more than 86 boxes – to Emory University in Atlanta. Nearly 500 original newspaper articles, scrapbooks, photographs, memorabilia and Matthew’s files opened April 1 for other researchers to browse.
“My intention was not to be a hoarder of the stuff. I was more of a custodian and my view is everybody should write a Bobby Jones story. This is a great story,” Matthew said.
The collection also includes unabridged video files of interviews with Jones’ friends, colleagues and other golfers such as Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen. Matthew used the interviews for his well-known documentary The Life and Times of Bobby Jones.
Matthew, an attorney from Tallahassee, Fla., started researching Jones in the early 1980s. He was battling a medical malpractice suit against the law firm Jones joined in 1928.
Matthew saw Jones memorabilia hanging on walls in the law firm, and he talked to several people who knew the golfer. But no one was documenting the story.
Fearing it would be lost, Jones set out with a film crew several times a year to collect oral histories of Jones. His documentary and companion book were the first fruits of his labor.
“That evolved into about a dozen books and several films,” he said. “I started playing a little less golf and did a little more burning of the midnight oil.”
As Matthew chased down any trail that told another piece of Jones’ story, he visited other golf collectors, Great Britain and Emory, where Jones attended three semesters of law school before passing the bar.
Jones donated some of his own archives to the university.
Matthew’s collection started piling up and his wife threatened to “take the junk to the curb.” He agreed he needed to let go of his years of work.
“There’s not a U-Haul attached to anybody’s hearse. You can’t fall in love with stuff,” he said. “I’m interested in the story getting out.”
Matthew still needs to find a home for piles of trophies, golf clubs, balls, bags, artwork and other memorabilia.
Although his load is lighter, his work isn’t finished. He has a few manuscripts remaining on Jones and another one in the works on the founders of Augusta National.