Yuma County, Colorado
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Glen and Barbara Jones
Written by Tony Rayl
Thursday, 23 June 2016
It was 20 years ago when Steve Jones became part of professional golfing history, winning the 96th U.S. Open in Bloomfield, Michigan.
The Open, one of golf's annual majors, was held this past week in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, won by Dustin Johnson. Jones was nowhere near the Oakmont course on the 20th anniversary of his first and only major championship on the PGA Tour.
Jones, the son of Glen and Barb Jones, grew up in Yuma, learning the game during endless hours practicing at what is now called Indian Hills Golf Course. He graduated from Yuma High School in the late 1970s, where he was an all-state basketball player, and attended the University of Colorado on a golf scholarship.
His parents, and two of his brothers, still live in Yuma. In fact, his brother Scott, who lived here for several years before moving out of state last year, was Steve's caddy for his U.S. Open championship.
Though he had won multiple times on the PGA Tour, Jones in a way came out of nowhere to win the 1996 U.S. Open at the daunting Oakland Hills Country Club. He had missed three years of his prime golf days as he recovered from injuries suffered in a dirt bike accident in 1991. One of his injuries was to his left ring finger, which limited his ability to swing a club. The accident occurred just two years after he won three tournaments, and won more than $745,000 on Tour in 1989.
He finally made it back to the PGA Tour in 1995, but it was slow going getting back in a groove. In fact, he almost did not make it into the 1996 U.S. Open field. He attended a sectional qualifying tournament in Ohio two weeks before the Open. He ended up in a playoff for the 10th qualifying spot. He won the playoff — and less than two weeks later was celebrating a U.S. Open championship.
It did not start out well, though, as he shot a 4-over par 74, which is not terrible when it comes to the notoriously-difficult U.S. Open courses. He worked his way into contention by shooting a 4-under 66 on Friday, pulling him to within two strokes of leader Greg Norman.
He shot a 69 on Saturday to creep within one stroke of the lead, which was now held by Tom Lehman.
Jones was paired with Lehman and Davis Love III for Sunday's final round, with all three staying in the hunt through most of the round. Jones and Lehman were at 2-under entering the final hole. He then shot a par on that hole, while Lehman had to scramble for a bogey after his drive rolled into a difficult lie in a sandtrap.
He earned $425,000 for winning the U.S. Open. (Johnson earned $1.8 million for winning this year's event.)
The victory led to a family celebration his wife Bonnie, and two young children, Cy, then 5, and Stacey, then 3.
The Jones family celebrated back home in Yuma, and their phone started ringing off the hook with calls from well-wishers and media requests. KUSA Channel 9 interviewed Glen right after the Open, and a reporter from the station was in Yuma the following day to interview the Jones family and some other residents.
The celebration continued later that summer when a large contingent of Yumans went to the International Tournament at Castle Pines in early August to watch Jones play, and also get to meet with him for awhile after the first round.
Jones, now 57, has a total eight career wins in the PGA Tour. He won three more tournaments after the U.S. Open, two in 1997 and one in 1998. His last PGA Tour win was the 1998 Quad City Classic. He won a total of $6.5 million on the PGA Tour. His best year in regards to earnings was in 1997 when he won $959,108. He last played a PGA Tour event in 2013, and the last time he played in a significant number of Tour stops was in 2006, when he played in 27 and finished in the top 25 twice. He finished in the top 25 a total of 116 times.
Jones has played 61 events on the PGA Champions Tour since 2011 with one top 10 finish, and 13 top 25 finishes, while earning $702,477. He finished ninth at the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, which is his best Champions Tour finish.
He has not played on the Champions Tour so far this year, however, as he recovers from an injury.
Maybe he will respond by winning the Seniors U.S. Open in 2017.
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