Gary Baines, Colorado Golf Journal
There have been plenty of times in his golf career when Steve Jones may have been tempted to wonder, “Why me?”
When it comes to injuries and ailments, the former University of Colorado golfer has run the gamut. Irregular heartbeat, thumb and finger injuries, shoulder and back issues, a severe case of tennis elbow — Jones has endured them all, and that’s to say nothing of all the effects of a career-stalling dirt-bike accident two decades ago.
All told, just since 1990, Jones has had to sit out six full tour seasons because of physical problems of one type or another.
But that hasn’t kept the golfer who grew up in Yuma, Colo., from having one heck of a career. Just since turning pro in 1981, that includes eight PGA Tour victories, including a U.S. Open, and a Colorado Open title to boot.
And, after being sidelined from competitive golf from 2008 through 2010, Jones saw his fortunes take a decided turn for the better late last year. In October, he was voted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, and the following month he was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame. And to cap off a memorable fall of 2012, he earned a conditional exemption on the Champions Tour by finishing 11th in the national qualifying tournament.
Growing up in Yuma, Jones competed in track and was an all-state basketball player. He also won two Colorado state sand-green titles and made it to the semifinals of the nation’s top junior golf tournament, the U.S. Junior Amateur, in 1976.
At CU, Jones also thrived, being named first-team all-conference a record four times and a second-team All-American during his senior season of 1980-81, when he posted nine top-10 finishes. He also won two state amateur titles.
After losing in a playoff as an amateur at the 1981 Colorado Open, Jones won that tournament in 1988, the same year he broke through on the PGA Tour by capturing the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am title.
Over the next decade (1988-98), Jones claimed all eight of his PGA Tour victories.
By far the biggest of those came in the 1996 U.S. Open, which ended a Tour victory drought of almost seven years. Of course, Jones didn’t compete at all for nearly three years during that span after a motorized dirt-bike accident in the Arizona desert in November 1991 when he sustained multiple injuries.
Jones wouldn’t play in another PGA Tour event until September 1994 and he wouldn’t win again until his one-stroke U.S. Open victory at Oakland Hills in Michigan in 1996. That performance made Jones the first Open champion since 1976 who had to go through a sectional qualifying tournament just to earn a spot in the field. Not surprisingly, he was named the PGA Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year in 1996.
All told, Jones has won more than $6.5 million in 446 PGA Tour starts and another $288,128 in his first 22 Champions Tour tournaments through the end of 2012.
You never give up, and you always try to improve. You never stop learning.