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Ex-Lobo Jones feels support of family at U.S. Senior Open

Kent Jones remembers fondly the days of being on the road with his family as a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.

It was about 10 years ago when there was no place like (a motor) home for Jones, the Albuquerquean who played at the University of New Mexico. Wife JoAnna and children Lauren and Sam were along for the ride. The kids would have separate toys for the RV, and their bikes came on the back, JoAnna said.

“Those were amazing days and amazing memories,” she said. “It was just a great setup. It was our home away from home. It was just really nice because there were other kids and other families. It was just a wonderful time.”

Those days were important and fascinating for Lauren and Sam as they watched their father chase his dream.

“Golf is a hard game,” Jones says now, and he most likely said it back then, too.

He never won while on the PGA Tour, but he earned money to provide greatly for his family. JoAnna and the kids saw Jones grind, achieve, become frustrated, but always give his best effort.

The family remains together, supporting Jones on a new path — the Champions Tour and, this weekend, the U.S. Senior Open.

JoAnna, Lauren and Sam were on the road again last weekend to Colorado Springs to meet Dad at The Broadmoor Golf Club. They want to see him at work, preparing for and playing in the U.S. Senior Open.

He starts Thursday, fresh off his highest finish of his season last weekend, when he tied for seventh in the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison, Wis. He is 46th on the tour’s money list with $204,638.

Jones, who has won more than $5 million as a pro in various events, including those on the PGA Tour, appears to be re-energized at age 51. There is a new confidence, yet with the same workmanlike effort.

“I have a good chance,” Jones said of winning this weekend. “I have gotten a lot better with my putting. That was something I would struggle with. I feel like I don’t have to be great with ball-striking because I can putt. I generally putt better on fast greens. You are in the mountains (at The Broadmoor), and the putts break away from the mountains. I think I’ll be comfortable there.”

Jones said the climate and conditions are similar to The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, where he won a qualifier on May 29. He shot 9-under-par 63, a bogey-free round that featured one eagle and seven birdies. Bill Harvey, the head pro of Ladera Golf Course, grabbed the other qualifying spot and will play in the U.S. Senior Open, which also includes Tommy Armour III, another UNM alumnus.

Jones, who played in six U.S Opens, will be making his debut at the U.S. Senior Open after he failed to qualify last year. Last year, he played in Monday qualifiers to try to get in Champions Tour events. Then he earned a spot on the tour after a clutch performance in the final stage of the PGA Tour Champions Qualifying School in December 2017. He finished third to grab one of the five open spots.

JoAnna is excited for her husband. Lauren and Sam are also eager to see Jones compete this weekend.

Lauren, 17, will be a senior at St. Pius in the fall. She’s a cheerleader, still deciding on a college and is contemplating a major in journalism or hotel management.

“I do remember those days in the motor home,” she said. “It was always really fun. I would get to see my friends. It was cool growing up in that environment. I’ve been super proud that my dad has been a professional golfer.”

Sam, 15, is going to be a sophomore at St. Pius. After young years of baseball, he decided to solely focus on golf last year, and played on the varsity team as a freshman. Sam looks up to his father and has admired his path toward the Champions Tour.

“Watching my dad, it’s made me want to start playing golf,” Sam said. “It’s good to go out with him. He helps me a lot with my game. He really knows what he’s doing.”

Jones candidly revealed that practicing with his son can be challenging.

“It’s sometimes hard to be patient for the both of us,” Jones said. “… I’ve gone through all this in my career. I see all the things you have to learn. There’s just so much to it, so much mentally to it.”

Sometimes, Jones plays on his own at his home golf course, UNM Championship Golf Course. He is proud of his roots.

Most people know him to be mild-mannered, friendly, humble.

“He checks in, gets his balls, and just goes out and practices,” said Dorothy Delasin, who won four events on the LPGA Tour and works as a pro at the UNM Championship. “He just does his work and heads home. He’s business. He’s a good guy.”

JoAnna and Jones knew each other in high school, but didn’t start dating until after they graduated from Carlsbad. JoAnna likes to tease and say that she was a cheerleader in high school, and Jones was a golfer, so of course there wasn’t a chance she would be with him. Afterward, they did end up together, even though she went to New Mexico State, and he went to UNM.

Eventually, she was also his caddie

“I’m the lucky one,” JoAnna said of being married to Jones. “I don’t take him for granted.”

Thursday on TV

U.S. Senior Open, first round

2-7 p.m., FS1

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