In an earlier chapter I had concluded that Mike Austin’s Eastlake exploits with Bobby Jones and Stewart Maiden were probably made up, as the Austin family lived across town about 6 miles from Eastlake Country Club.
Since that publishing, I have run down the 1930 census which changes the complexion of the tale somewhat.
The Austin’s lived at 322 Connecticut Ave. which is only about 1.5 miles from the Eastlake Country Club, and interestingly only about 1.5 miles from the Georgia Tech campus as well. This would very much be within walking distance from the north fence of the club. Easy for a stout teenager with a Sunday bag of a few clubs in tow.
The census must have been very early in the year of 1930 as Mike is still listed as 14 years old. Bobby Jones completed the Grand Slam of Golf later that year.
There are a number of interesting facts that weigh significantly on the judgment of Mike Austin’s Eastlake stories. The kind that make you run your fingers through your beard.
Bobby Jones had graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1922. Mike Austin claimed to have attended Georgia Tech, and according to his IMDb page, earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering. As discussed previously, there is no record of Mike attending there.
Additionally, Bobby Jones went to Hollywood in both 1931 and 1933 to film a number of instructional videos featuring famous celebrities of the era. Mike Austin left Georgia sometime in 1940 to head west, eventually earning bit parts in a couple of feature films and singing in the LA Civic Opera.
Bobby Jones’ teacher was Steward Maiden, who had left Carnoustie, in Scotland, to replace his brother James as the head pro at Eastlake. Mike Austin spoke with a Scottish accent most of his life, despite being born in Alabama.
What are we to make of these facts? Could Mike Austin have really encountered Jones and Maiden? Did he worship the two to the point of copying everything they did, from swinging a golf club to speaking?
Keep in mind that Bobby Jones was the first individual athlete to ever have a ticker tape parade in New York City, actually twice. First, he returned triumphant to a parade in 1926 after winning the British Open, and then again in 1930 when he won all four tournaments considered majors at the time: the U.S. Open, the U.S. Amateur, the British Open, and the British Amateur. A single sportsman would not receive the same treatment until the great Olympic star Jesse Owens came back from Berlin in 1936.
Bobby was a national hero, so imagine how big a star he was in Atlanta, playing golf a little over a mile from Mike Austin’s house. Could this be a case of severe idolism? Did teenage Mike fantasize he was Bobby Jones?
This new information bolsters the claim that Mike had crossed paths with Bobby Jones somehow. Could one of Mike’s stories actually contain a ring of truth? Or was this just Mike spicing up a completely ordinary life?
Coming up, we still have the matters of Mike’s journey west to Hollywood, with notable stops along the way, and Mike’s tales of heroism as an RAF airman in World War 2.