Part seven of a 12-day series profiling each member of the 2012 Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, leading up to the induction ceremonies on Thursday, Nov. 15. Today's profile is on Steve Jones, All-America golfer and U.S. Open Champion. Click here for more information and to register for the 2012 induction ceremony.
Resiliency is a term Steve Jones is no stranger to. He has overcome numerous challenges in his life to solidify himself a successful career in professional golf.
In 1991, Jones was involved in a serious motorbike accident that kept him out of golf for nearly three years. He has also suffered serious elbow injuries and had elbow surgeries in 2003, 2008, and 2009. Although these kept him out of golf for extended periods of time, his toughness and passion have helped him to overcome these obstacles.
Jones has made an astonishing impact on the CU golf program and he prepares to join an elite group of athletes when he is inducted into the University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame this week.
|Steve Jones was a four-time All-Big Eight pick.|
Jones attended CU from 1977-81, where he set numerous career records for the golf program. He had high expectations being the first recruit for legendary golf coach Mark Simpson. He more than fulfilled the expectations, as he is still the only four-time first team all-conference performer in golf (four top 10 finishes at the conference championship event) and one of only a select few in all sports at CU.
Although he was impressive his first three seasons with the team, his 1981 senior season was his most prolific year, when he was a second team All-American. That season he totaled nine top-10 finishes and 10 top 20 efforts, which are both school records.
Jones accumulated 19 top 10 finishes and 26 top 20 finishes, which were both CU records at the time. Among his other accomplishments, he is still the only player in CU’s records to lead the golf team in stroke average for four consecutive seasons.
“It was a great experience to play golf under Mark Simpson, we had a really good team and we played a good schedule, exactly like the football team does," Jones said. "It was great to always play the best because you could find out just how good you were or what you needed to do to compete with the best.”
His innate drive for competition helped improve himself as a player, a skill he could use at the next level.
Jones became a professional golfer after graduating from CU in 1981. He played in the PGA Tour with minimal success until his first top 10 finish at the Texas Open in 1985. Three years later, he won on the PGA Tour for the first time at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The following year he won three PGA tour events and finished eighth in earnings, his most victorious year.
Then his professional golf career took a scary turn when a motorbike accident occurred and sidelined him from golf competition for nearly three years while he recovered from ligament and joint damage in his left index finger. He healed from his injury and began his comeback on the courses in 1995 finishing in the top 10 in two events. The following year would become the biggest year of his career.
Jones won the 1996 US Open, his only major championship and biggest accomplishment of his career. When asked about winning it, Jones described how it changed his life.
“It changed my life in many ways. Recognition, obviously. Accomplishment, my personal goal of wanting to win the U.S. Open since my childhood playing in Yuma, doing what all kids do, saying ‘This putt is to win the US Open.’ It changed things financially, having exemptions for several years into many tournaments. But to hear your name on the first tee, 1996 U.S. Open Champion, that’s nice.”
This was an impressive feat as he was the first sectional qualifier to win the U.S. Open in 20 years.
His success at the U.S. Open led to an invitation to play with Tom Lehman for the U.S. National team in the 1996 World Cup of Golf. He helped the U.S. to finish in second place losing to Ernie Els and Wayne Westner of South Africa.
The following year, Jones won the Phoenix Open. His 11-shot victory was highlighted by scoring the third lowest 72-hole score in PGA history at the time. He won three more events after Phoenix, two in 1997 and another in 1998.
Tennis elbow surgeries limited his appearances from 2003-11. He made his long-awaited return at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament on the Champions Tour and teamed with Doug Tewell to tie for 10th place in their division. He also played in the Bob Hope Classic on the PGA Tour that same year.
Jones now resides in Arizona and has started the Steve Jones Golf Academy at the Rave Golf Club in Phoenix and also runs his website, stevejonesgolf.com. He also had his own weekly radio show, “On the Tee”, on 1060 AM The Fan in Phoenix started in 2009.
After playing on the tour for over 20 years, Jones recalls, “I think the camaraderie has been great. You get to meet so many different guys on the Tour, it’s like a big family out there. I have a big family on the Tour, like I have big families and friends back home in Colorado, and in Arizona. The friendships out there last forever.”
Jones is one of the all time CU great athletes and has made a significant impact on the program from his 1977-1981 CU career. His talent, passion, and resiliency in golf will be honored when he is inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame.