Eugene Jones was revered during his days in professional golf. But as he delved deeper into the sport, it became obvious that nothing could capture the attention of the pros like the best thing that ever happened to Eugene Jones: winning a single green jacket.
Before the Masters in 1988, he had lost all of the best players to others. According to a 1988 article in Sports Illustrated, Jones, who was the PGA’s Player of the Year in 1982 and whose career was remarkable for its low scoring average, seemed destined to never be respected as one of the game’s all-time greats.
So when John Daly approached Jones on the practice range at The Golf Club at Augusta National and asked if he could hit a tee shot on the par-three, 15th hole to Jones’ enormous satisfaction, Jones was willing to oblige.
“As Daly bent over to toss the ball, the ball hit the bubble of Jones’ green jacket on the way down,” SI’s Jerry Walker wrote. “Daly laughed. Patella tendinitis came on strong. Daly opted not to hit the next tee shot, and the caddie called off the practice round.”
Jones’ ability to avoid injury was one of his defining characteristics, one which prevented him from earning a Masters victory — or even the U.S. Open or the PGA Championship.
All Jones did accomplish during his pro career was win five times, shoot 72.2 million yards on the driving range, make over 17,000 drives, knock down an average of 100 putts a round, make 317 putts in his Masters victory and keep bogeys to a minimum.
He was, in other words, beyond good.
Yet even Jones was amazed at himself during his highly successful career. He talked about hitting 50 3-wood drivers in a tournament, and he talked about how the impact of a ball on his jacket is “pretty dramatic.”
When he emerged victorious in 1988, the people who watched him play were completely captivated.
A week later, he was still riding the wave.
According to Golf Digest, “Jones followed his Masters win with a 30th-place finish at the U.S. Open, followed by a 50th-place effort at the British. That, too, was followed by a 10th-place finish in the PGA.”
During a 1989 interview with the National PGA Tour, Jones was asked how one of his more recent finishes looked on television.
“It’s like slow motion,” he replied. “It’s like watching the tape in slow motion. All you can do is shake your head and say ‘Somebody’s made a wrong call.'”