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Jones, learning patience as he goes, wins the R.I. Senior Open

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published August 31. 2012 4:00AM
Tim Cook/ The Day
David Jones of Norwich remained focused down the stretch at the Rhode Island Senior Open, finishing with a two-round total of 142.

As a long-time teacher and middle school coach, David Jones has learned to be extremely patient, no matter the circumstances.

On the golf course, he's still working on being calm and cool in the heat of competition.

Jones, a Norwich resident, admits that impatience helped cost him a chance to win the Connecticut Senior Open at Shennecossett Golf Course in early July. He still had a successful tournament, finishing as low amateur.

After that experience, Jones adopted a different approach competing in the Rhode Island Senior Open on Aug. 14-15 at Valley Country Club in Warwick.

Jones remained focused and kept his composure during the crucial final round, reaching a playoff with birdies on the final two holes. He outlasted 2012 Connecticut Senior Open champion Jim Becker and Jerry Courville, one of the state's top amateurs, to win the title on the second extra hole.

He finished with a two-round total of 2-under 142 (71-71).

"I stayed patient," Jones said. "I was really focused on playing and the process of hitting shots. At Shenny, I was thinking about winning and I just lost my patience. ... I was focused on the moment. I was very calm, relaxed and very confident."

The trick now is to repeat that approach in future tournaments.

Jones, 50, has had an impressive debut season as a senior golfer.

In June, he missed qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open by just one stroke, finishing as the second alternate in a qualifier in Massachusetts.

"It was really disappointing because I was playing really well and ended up bogeying 16 and 17," Jones said. "I got impatient."

Jones was tied for second heading into the second and final round of the Connecticut Senior Open. A bumpy stretch at the beginning of the back nine knocked him out of contention for the crown but he still managed to finish tied for fourth overall.

Other accomplishments include winning the Norwich Senior Invitational by shooting a 69 and capturing his fifth men's club championship at Mohegan Sun Country Club at Pautipaug on Sunday, beating Glen Rubino, 6-and-5.

"It's been a really good summer," Jones said. "The Rhode Island Senior Open was really fun to play in."

With the school year beginning, Jones has limited time to play golf. He's a technology teacher at Sayles School in Baltic. He also coaches girls' soccer as well as boys' basketball and track.

"I'm a three-season guy," Jones said of his coaching duties. "I really enjoy doing all three of them. It's very rewarding, especially at the middle school level."

He works out with his middle school teams to help stay in shape for golf. He also plays over the winter, weather permitting.

Before the season ends, Jones will squeeze in one more tournament, playing in the Dennis Highlands Four-Ball Championship on Sept. 15-16 at Dennis Highlands Golf Course on Cape Cod. Last fall he teamed up with Derek Waddington to win the event.

Next golf season he'll try to carry over lessons learned in 2012.

"The funny thing is, I still think I'm getting better," Jones said. "I'm 50 years old and I've been playing the game for 30 years. The last three years are the best I've ever had."

By the way, Jones also plans to have his regular caddie by his side. His wife, Jo Ann, serves as a calming influence.

"She really enjoys it," Jones said. "It's something we do together and really love. She's actually very knowledgeable about the game. She keeps me calm and relaxed when I get out there.

"When I get impatient, I tend to walk fast and do things fast. She tells me to slow down."

Short putts

• Phil Perry of East Lyme played well in the 25th Connecticut Mid-Amateur earlier this week at Hop Meadow Country Club in West Simsbury. He tied for third overall, shooting a 5-over 221 (74-74-73). His third round included an eagle.

Ron Soccoli Jr., another Black Hall Club golfer, also finished in the top 20, placing 18th with a 230 (72-76-82). Brian Ahern defeated Dave Szewczul on a second playoff hole to win the championship.

• Ron Hantman won the Stonington Senior Club championship on Tuesday, beating Jack Cannon in the finals of the match play event.

Patty van der Velde defeated Missy Evans to capture the women's senior club championship on Sunday.

• Defending champion Chris Lawrence is still in the hunt for the Old Lyme Country Club men's championship. He'll face Mark Walsh in the semifinals on Saturday while Mitchell Etess plays Jonathan Carlisle.

Winners play for the championship on Monday morning.

In the women's club championship, Helene Nichols defeated Kathy Shannehan, 1-up, Thursday in the 18-hole final. Vicky Winterer beat Kitty Mackey, 2-up, in the nine-hole event.

• Lake of Isles in North Stonington held its Junior Championship on Sunday.

Spencer Salvas won the boys' 15-17 division in a tiebreaker, beating John Abbott. Both golfers shot a 74.

In the boys' 13-14 division, Thomas Labbe took first with a 72 and Andrew Szandrocha fired a 76. David Russo shot a 40 to finish first and Jonathan Farrell (42) placed second in the nine-hole event for the boys' 10-12 division.

In the girls' competition, Sadie Martinez (82) placed first and Gabrielle Martin (86) was second in the 14-17 division. Marlene Tartaro won the 10-13 division, shooting a 54.

• Jack Ayers, The Day's Golfer of the Year from Old Saybrook, was recently awarded one of 10 Connecticut State Golf Association scholarships handed out to Connecticut golf club employees. Scholarship awards range from $1,000-$3,000. Ayers is a freshman at Central Connecticut State University this fall.

• The Connecticut Section PGA will hold its annual special awards banquet on Sunday, Nov. 18, at Lake of Isles. Black Hall Club pro Andrew Campbell is one of the award winners. He'll receive the Bill Strausbaugh Award, which is given to the PGA professional "who by their day-to-day efforts have distinguished themselves by mentoring their fellow PGA Professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community.

"…. Award candidates should demonstrate a record of service to their Section or Association; leadership ability, involvement in civic activities and local charitable causes within their community and be recognized as someone of outstanding character."

• Gabe Carr-Harris (Stonington), Darren Falk (Black Hall), Casey Roan (Shennecossett) and Bradley Lusenhop (Fox Hopyard) will compete in the 50th Connecticut PGA Assistant Championship on Tuesday at Bull's Bridge Golf Club in South Kent.

• Shennecossett is hosting the Jack Kelly PGA Junior Tournament of Champions on Sunday. Local golfers in the field include: Joey Barile of Griswold, Nick Hedden of Waterford and Nick Kamireddy of Preston.

Upcoming events

• The annual Norwich/Shenny Challenge is on Sunday, Sept. 16, at Shennecossett in Groton.

• The Pequot Golf Club Member-Guest tournament is Saturday, Sept. 22. Registration deadline is Sunday.

• Black Hall in Old Lyme is hosting the 51st Connecticut PGA Pro-Am Championship on Oct. 1. It is an 18 hole, four-ball stroke play event.

This is the opinion of Day golf columnist Gavin Keefe.

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