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Golf: Parting shot – Drew Jones takes aim at state title

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, April 23, 2016
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Focused on Finish

FOCUSED ON FINISH – Decatur senior Drew Jones will make his fourth trip to the state tournament Monday, looking for his first state title. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Over a career already filled with honors, awards and trophies, thousands of golf strokes have all started the same for Drew Jones.

Lined up behind the ball, before using his 6’2″ frame to unleash his prodigious power, he stares at the ground just a few feet in front of him.

“I look 3 to 4 feet in front of me and find a point in front of me – a tee or a blade of grass. That’ll be my lining point. I’ll pick where I want the ball and try to take it over that point,” Jones explained.

Drew Jones. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The best shots, like his 350-yard drive on No. 18 to set up an eagle putt for a round of 62 as a sophomore or another eagle putt at Tanglewood, barely register a memory.

“When I hit the ball and I’m really focused, I can’t hear anything,” Jones said. “It’s hard to explain. But like Tiger [Woods] said, you hit a shot and can’t remember it.”

It’s the shots he doesn’t get to take that haunt the senior the most.

In the week leading up to his final high school tournament, gloomy skies and persistent rain have kept Jones off the course.

“It’s been tough for sure. It’s not how I would like it,” Jones admitted. “It happens. Most of the kids are not practicing.”

Time away from the course for Jones is lost time on an endless quest for the unattainable in the sport he loves – perfection.

“Golf takes time. It’s a game, no one will ever get down to the millimeter,” Jones added.

And for Jones, he’s spent too much time off the course in the past year. Last spring on the way to qualifying for his third trip to the University Interscholastic League golf championships, he suffered a torn ligament. Injured, he set a 4A Region I record on his way to a victory. He then tied for fourth at the 4A finals with rounds of 73 and 77.

“It started hurting at regionals, and I played at state and throughout the summer,” Jones said. “I played at the FootJoy AJGA and shot some of the worst rounds I’ve had. I couldn’t take anymore.”

The wrist injury made him a better video game player but limited his golf game to no more than putting.

“For three months, all I did was play video games and watch TV,” Jones said. “It was pretty boring. I wanted to be out there playing.”

It also ignited a fire in the Decatur senior that he hopes to use Monday and Tuesday in his fourth and final trip to Austin to bring home the state title. Jones tees off for the opening round of the 4A final at Onion Creek Golf Club Monday at 8:10.

“The perfect ending would be to win state individually and as a team. Both are possible,” Jones stated.

The three months off the course last summer was the longest break for Jones since he first picked up the game at a young age.

“At the age of 2 my dad had a plastic club in my hand,” Jones said. “He’d be sitting watching the Golf Channel, and I’d start watching with him. I mainly watch Phil [Mickelson] because he’s left handed.”

It didn’t take long for an interest in the game to blossom fully into a passion and soon came success. After competing in his first major tournaments at age 5. In May 2005, he won the 7-8 age division of the Mutual of Omaha Drive, Chip and Putt Junior Challenge at Tennison Park in Dallas.

“I love it because I’m good at it,” Jones said. “I also love it because of what it is – sport. To play a sport for a living – I love that idea.”

By the time he was 12 and finishing third at the Texas PGA Championship, that was his goal.

“At 12 years old is when I new I could do something with the game,” Jones said.

Since then, it’s been full-bore ahead. He’s piled up amateur wins and high school tournament victories. As a sophomore, he dismantled the Turtle Hill course in Muenster, shooting 10-under par 62. He capped that magnificent round with a show-stopping eagle.

But for all his success, the state title he has longed for has eluded him. Jones finished ninth as a freshman and then fifth as a sophomore. Last year, he fought his putter through the back nine and finished tied for fourth.

“This year I want it more than anything,” Jones said. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m a senior or because I haven’t won it. My sophomore year, I had strep. Then my junior year, I didn’t play well. I’m determined to win it this year.”

Jones’ teammates have seen his determination in person.

“He gathered us two months ago and had a talk like he was our coach, telling us what we can do,” said Decatur teammate Hayden Bennett. “He’s a great role model. We all try to follow what he does.

“It’s unbelievable [to play with him]. He’s so good with the shots he hits. You try to match him. When he’s under pressure is when he’s at his best.”

All this year, Jones admits there is also a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He points out that he missed a chance last summer with his injury to move up the world amateur rankings before college.

“What hurt the most was it was my best opportunity to get my ranking up. When I got hurt, I went a little under the radar,” he said.

That probably factored into Jones playing his first tournament of the fall just a few days after getting released from the doctor.

“I was surprised. He was very compliant [with doctor orders] and for three months didn’t do anything,” said his father Steve Jones. “That Thursday he got his release, and he played the following Monday. I tried to talk him out of it because there was no way he was prepared. He then shot a 67.”

Jones won his fourth district title and defended his region crown this spring.

After state, he will come straight back to play in the Texas State Amateur in Wichita Falls.

Next fall he will join the University of Texas squad full of some the world’s best amateur players. It’s a challenge he longs for at a program he’s wanted to attend since before he was a teenager.

“I feel when I get down there, I will get better faster. I’ll feed off them,” Jones said. “I haven’t ever had to earn my spot. There I will.”

He hopes that also pushes him to his eventual goal – the PGA Tour.

“I’ll be in college to play golf. Going to the golf course every day pays off,” Jones said.

But like with every swing, he’s not looking at that flag in the distance yet. Instead, it’s the next shot that starts inches away.

Taking Aim

TAKING AIM – Decatur’s Drew Jones finished fourth last year at state. He tees off at 8:10 a.m. Monday morning at Onion Creek Golf Club. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

UNIVERSITY INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS

Onion Creek Golf Club
April 25-26

Decatur boys Monday tee times

  • Mason Hudson … 7:30 a.m.
  • Hayden Bennett … 7:40 a.m.
  • Bryce Elder … 7:50 a.m.
  • Cade Lamirand … 8 a.m.
  • Drew Jones … 8:10 a.m.

Bridgeport girls Monday tee times

  • Ashlie Lennard … 10:30 a.m.
  • Abbi Hatton … 10:40 a.m.
  • Katie Hudson … 10:50 a.m.
  • Brooke Irion … 11 a.m.
  • Lexi Read … 11:10 a.m.

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