By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Linda “Penny” Jones knew how much the game of golf meant to her husband. So when an accident befell his set of clubs, she doesn’t mind telling you she panicked.
“I hopped in my car and I backed out, and I hear, crunch, crunch! Rattle, rattle! Crunch, crunch!” Jones recalled, now able to laugh at the incident. “I get out and he had set his golf clubs (behind) my car. And I thought, ‘Oh, no!’ I was scared to death. I ruined one of them and part of the bag.
“I just took off and left.”
When she finally returned home that evening, Jimmy Jones was not angry, but her trepidation was understandable. Golf was everything to Jimmy — he watched it on television, he regripped and reshafted his own clubs with alarming regularity and he was a frequent letter writer to Golf Digest.
Next month, Jimmy Jones’ love of golf will be recognized when he is honored at the 32nd annual Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic.
Jones, the 1988 winner, died of a heart attack in 2007.
“He would be beaming,” Penny said. “He would be so proud, because he took this game so seriously. There was no joking about it. He would never drink a beer like a lot of golfers do. It was totally serious.”
“He played golf a lot, period,” she added. “He entered a lot of tournaments, and of course he always watched it on television.”
Playing golf, be it a leisurely round or a weekend tournament, was more than just fun to Jones. He was an old-school golfer who studied the game and was often in search of tips and secrets that might make his game even better.
He eventually got his son, James, involved. The two played in the annual Father-Child tournament, where James sank one of his two holes-in-one.
“That’s all I did from the time I was maybe 14, 18, something like that,” said James, a registered nurse and musician who played one year at Concord.
James learned a lot about the sport from his dad. One thing that stands out was Jimmy’s prowess in the short game.
“He was probably the best putter of this area, by far,” James said. “It was unreal. Many times I saw him hack around for three shots, have a 20-foot putt for par and drain it.”
When Jimmy won the Classic in 1988, he finished the event at a then-record 3-under par.
“I listened to a lot of golf stories,” Penny said. “But he was extremely happy.”
Jimmy Jones lived a full life before his passing five years ago.
He served in the U.S. Army in the Airborne Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After his military service, he moved to Detroit and worked on the assembly line at General Motors.
He was on his way home when he was in a serious automobile accident that left him paralyzed and in a brace for six months. But he overcame that obstacle, and eventually took a coal mining job.
In 1982, Jimmy took a position with the Mine Safety and Health Administration as supervisor over special investigators for mining accidents.
“He said, ‘I’ll take a big cut in pay, but it’ll build back. What do you think?’” Penny recalled. “I said go for it. We didn’t have any children and we could afford the cut. He did, and I have been thankful many, many times that he went to work for the government.”
Jimmy Jones touched the lives of several of his golfing buddies, from Clayton Terry, David Thompson and Ira Lee, to Jerry Hickman and Eddie Jenkins.
“He had a love and a passion for the game,” Penny said.
But not so much that he couldn’t overlook his wife’s accidental desecration of his beloved clubs.
Of course, there wasn’t much he could say. After all, he did violate one of his oft-repeated requests.
“He had always told me, ‘Don’t you ever leave anything behind those cars in the garage,’” Penny said.
“He said, ‘Where did you go? You’ve been gone all evening.’ I said, ‘I was scared to come home.’
“He took it a lot better than I thought he would.”
The Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic will be held July 14-16. Half the field will play at Grandview Country Club and half at Pipestem Resort State Park, then reverse for the second round.
The flighted final round will be played on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.
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