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Loss of a Local Legend: Dawn Coe-Jones passes far too young

Remembering Dawn Coe-Jones by Kent Gilchrist

“She was just a hero and a legend,” was the eloquent description Jennifer Wyatt used to describe Dawn Coe-Jones.

The words might have been slightly different, but the sentiment was the same as past and present members of the tight-knit LPGA fraternity took stock and reflected on the passing of the Vancouver Island golfer who resided in Florida.

Dawn Coe-Jones is seen here at the 2008 Canadian Women’s Open at the Ottawa Hunt Club. (Photo courtesy Ian Hutchinson)

The Lake Cowichan, B.C. native tragically succumbed to a rare form of bone cancer at the far too young age of 56. Her funeral was held in Tampa Bay, Fla. on Nov. 19.

Coe-Jones was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame of BC in 2011. Wyatt was inducted in 2015. Coe-Jones was also inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.

Even though Dawn lived in Tampa she came home to Vancouver Island regularly. After all, she had a junior tournament in her name to oversee at March Meadows in Half Moon Bay near where she grew up.

“I’ve known her since 1983 when I followed her to Lamar (University),” said Wyatt. “She always made sure I was comfortable as a freshman at college.”

As a repayment of sorts when Dawn was having some difficulties at U.S. Customs and Immigration one Thanksgiving, she stayed at the Wyatt’s until she got things straightened out.

“She was always bringing that up and how much she appreciated the hospitality,” said Wyatt.

After Sandra Post, Dawn and Lisa Walters (who got their LPGA playing privileges at the same LPGA Qualifying School in 1983) blazed the trail for Gail Graham and Wyatt, Lorie Kane and A.J. Eathorne to follow.

“Dawn was always worried about others,” said Graham. “She touched so many people. When I think of her, she was always smiling and she had a knack of calling you on the phone to cheer you up just when you needed it most.”

Dawn was a huge hockey fan and told golf writer Ian Hutchinson that she would like to learn how to drive a Zamboni. She loved the Tampa Bay Lightning and was at the rink for Game Seven when the Lightning beat the Calgary Flames for the 2004 Stanley Cup.

She was known for that big smile as much as her shot making. Since she was always smiling, no one ever knew if she was ever unhappy with her shot making.

And she was pretty successful. She won three LPGA tournaments including the 1992 Kemper Open (the same year she married Jimmy Jones), the ’94 Health South Palm Beach Classic and the ’95 Tournament of Champions.

She also won the 1992 LPGA Match Play. Dawn lost the ’92 Oldsmobile Classic on the first hole of a playoff.

While wearing her husband Jimmy’s Lady Fairway shoes, she was a tour regular from 1984 until 2008, making more than $3.3 million. She called Jimmy, the shoe company president, “Big.”

“Little,” of course, would be son Jimmy Junior, who won the Florida Amateur in 2015 and who attends the University of South Florida.

Dawn had 44 top 10s and finished in the top five in all of the LPGA majors. In 2005 she made 12 of 16 cuts when she was 45.

She never won the Canadian du Maurier Classic when it was an LPGA major, but she had a double eagle in the ’92 tournament.

During her amateur career, Coe-Jones twice won the BC Junior Girls’ Amateur (1978, ’79), twice won the BC Women’s Amateur (1982, ’83), and won the 1983 Canadian Women’s Amateur.

“Every player that I ever met with Dawn has contacted me, and everyone’s as heartbroken as I am,” Kelli Feltrin said. Feltrin was Dawn’s best friend from Lake Cowichan. Feltrin traveled around with Coe-Jones and caddied for her in “nice places like Hawaii,” Feltrin said with a self-deprecating laugh.

Longtime LPGA roommate Lisa Walters was with Feltrin selecting flowers for the celebration of life in Tampa when contacted. When Feltrin couldn’t talk anymore because she was crying too hard she passed her telephone to Lisa. “We were best friends for 40 years and never had a cross word,” said Walters, almost surprised to hear herself make such a remarkable statement.
It didn’t start out that way. Walters was from Prince Rupert, B.C. and the pair were competitors from the age of 16, through junior ranks and amateur and then they both qualified for the LPGA. Neither had a roommate and ended up flying to Los Angeles together after the Florida swing in 1984.

“Neither of us had a roommate so we decided to room together,” Walters recalls. “Dawn was flat out fun. She had a great sense of humor. She was never flashy and never wanted to be the center of attention.

“I’m sure she was mad at me more than a few times because I did some stupid things, but she bit her tongue and never said anything. But I was never, ever mad at her.”

Lisa was inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame of BC in 2013. Like so many others, Lisa will miss her terribly.

“It will be hard,” Walters said simply.

Kent Gilchrist was the longtime sports columnist for the Vancouver Province newspaper. He has covered Olympic Games, Stanley Cup finals, the Kentucky Derby, The Masters, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and many Grey Cups. In 2015 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Northwest Golf Media Association.