Dawn Coe-Jones, one of the most successful Canadians to play the LPGA, died of cancer early Saturday morning. She was 56.
One of Canada’s most successful players, Coe-Jones was diagnosed in January with cancer and died at a Tampa, Fla., hospice early Saturday morning.
“It’s amazing how many people on Tour just loved her,” said Lisa Walters, a fellow LPGA Tour player and one of Coe-Jones’ best friends. “She was so kind, so nice to everyone. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like Dawn.”
“I think she will be remembered as one of Canada’s most successful golfers,” said Gail Graham, who was mentored by Coe-Jones on the LPGA Tour. “She always had a huge smile on her face when she played.”
“She was so proud to be a Canadian,” added Lorie Kane, who teamed with Coe-Jones for Canada at the 2005 World Cup. “She loved playing for Canada.”
With a swing that was not necessarily textbook perfect but was consistently reliable, the woman with the dry wit and love of hockey, carved out a career that ranks among the best in Canadian golf. She captured scores of top amateur tournaments, won three times on the LPGA Tour, posted top-five finishes in all four LPGA Majors (the women’s tour added a fifth major in 2013), logged 44 top-10 finishes and earned more than $3.3 million. She was also the first Canadian woman to surpass the $1 million mark in earnings.
Coe-Jones grew up in Lake Cowichan, B.C., and honed her skills at the March Meadows GC in Honeymoon Bay. Her parents would often drop her off in the morning and pick her up at dusk, allowing her to simply go around and around the course, often times tagging along with her brothers.
While she took lessons, she was definitely a feel player, fidgeting and finding a swing that felt good and worked better. Even later in her career, when her game would falter, she would simply go the range and hit short wedge shots until that magical feel returned.
As a youngster, she quickly became good enough to play competitive junior golf around B.C., but she had to be cajoled into going. When heading off to play in tournaments, she would get homesick and beg to stay home. Her mother usually had to convince her – sometimes even strong-arm her — into leaving.
Coe-Jones first made her mark on the competitive scene by winning the 1978 B.C. Junior, a title she defended a year later. In 1982, she captured the B.C. Amateur, again following it up with a win the next year. The highlight came when she took top spot in the 1983 Canadian Amateur.
Her strong play earned her a scholarship at Lamar University in Texas and, after graduating, joined the LPGA Tour in 1984 and played until her retirement in 2008.
More than any other golfer I’ve covered, Coe-Jones always seemed to enjoy life. While she was competitive and hungry to win, she never seemed to take her poor days on the course past the 18th hole. After the fact, she would laugh at her missed shots and never get too excited over the good ones.
And no matter what the situation, she was always able to poke fun at her day. One morning she arrived on the first tee at the du Maurier Classic, at that time the lone Canadian stop for the LPGA Tour, looking somewhat haggard. At that time she was travelling with her baby son Jimmy, trying to combine motherhood and a golf career. While waiting to tee off, she spotted me in the gallery and walked over.
“Do you think Arnie and Jack ever had to deal with a colicky kid at three in the morning?” she asked, a smile breaking out over her face.
She laughed at her own joke, then walked over and hit her opening tee shot straight down the middle.
Always generous with her time and knowledge, the Canadian Golf Hall of Famer was only too happy to mentor a wave of young golfers from north of the border, lending a hand to the likes of Jennifer Wyatt, Lorie Kane, Gail Graham and A.J. Eathorne.
“At Lamar, we used to call her the chief because she was always looking out for us and telling us what to do,” said Graham, who followed in Coe-Jones’ footsteps on a scholarship to the Beaumont, Tex., university. “She laughed at that and told us ‘I’m not bossy, I just know what to do.’”
When Kane joined the LPGA Tour, Coe-Jones immediately took her under her wing.
“I think the first tournament I entered, she came up to me in the locker room and told me we were playing a practice round the next day – she didn’t ask, she told me,” said Kane. “I was just thrilled.”
For almost the entirety of her career and beyond, Coe-Jones’ closest friend was Walters. The two were both from B.C., both the same age and in their rookie year, became roommates.
“We decided to try it out in Hawaii,” recalled Walters on the living arrangement. “We checked into the hotel, went down to the beach and within five minutes, Dawn cut her foot on coral and I lost the room key. We laughed at that and we never stopped laughing for the rest of our careers.”
As much as she loved playing golf, when it came to watching sports, hockey was the first choice for Coe-Jones. Growing up in B.C. before the Canucks existed, she watched the Montreal Canadiens and grew to love the Habs. One of her prized possessions was a team jersey with the number 1 and her name on the back.
Later, after marrying American Jimmy Jones and moving to Tampa, Fla., she began a love affair with the Lightning that was capped by their win in the 2004 Stanley Cup. She proudly sent out a photo of her with the Stanley Cup to all her friends.
Coe-Jones leaves behind her husband and a son, also named Jimmy.