An inspired and sterling one-shot victory in the 1996 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills was the exclamation point to a most distinguished playing record at every possible level for Steve Jones and made him an overwhelming choice for induction into the 25th class of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
A gutsy par on the closing hole at Oakland Hills secured that one-shot margin over close friend Tom Lehman and Davis Love III. It was the climax to a remarkable comeback from a dirt-bike accident in 1991 that kept him off the Tour for three years and threatened to end a great career. It was also his first triumph since the Canadian Open of 1989, the strongest year of his pro career, when he won three events and finished eighth on the PGA Tour money list.
Jones is no stranger to adversity. He was born in Artesia, N.M., is a resident now of Phoenix, but spent 14 years growing up in Yuma, Colo., as a golf, track and all-state basketball player. He attended the University of Colorado where he was four-time All-Big Eight and second team All-American after having been a semifinalist in the 1976 U.S. Junior Amateur. In 1987, a congenital heart defect forced Jones out of the Colorado Open, which he’d go on to win in 1988. (As an amateur, Jones lost the 1981 Colorado Open in a playoff with Dave Hill.) The dirt-bike accident in 1991 caused severe ligament damage in Jones’ left ring finger and he spent three years developing a reverse-overlap grip to compensate, and did not return full bore to the Tour until 1995. In 1996, Jones was named the PGA Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year.
Steve won the 1980 CGA Match Play title and the 1981 CGA Stroke Play crown prior to turning pro in 1982. His eight Tour victories include the 1988 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, 1989 MONY Tournament of Champions, 1989 Bob Hope Desert Classic; 1989 Canadian Open, 1996 U.S. Open, 1997 Phoenix Open (by 11 strokes), 1997 Canadian Open and 1998 Quad City Classic.
It was poetic justice that Steve would win the 1996 Ben Hogan Award from the Golf Writers Association of America, which goes to the player who comes back from serious illness or injury. This was ironic because Jones read a book about Ben Hogan prior to the Open that told him to “focus on each shot and not worry about the outcome.”
In another event at Oakland Hills, Jones served as assistant captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 2004. An elbow injury kept Jones from competing on the Champions Tour upon turning 50 in December 2008. He made his Champions Tour debut in 2011.
Jones was inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 and into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
1989 Golf Person of the Year
Won the Colorado Open a year after having to withdraw from the event due to a congenital heart defect.