The Legends Tour lost of member of its golf family early Saturday morning, Nov. 12, when LPGA Tour veteran Dawn Coe-Jones passed away following an eight-month battle with cancer.
Coe-Jones, 56, a native of Campbell River, British Columbia, died peacefully under hospice care with her family in Tampa, Fla. She is survived by her husband, James Edward Jones, son, Jimmy Jones, 21, in-laws Sandy and General James Jones, and brothers Mark and John Coe.
The three-time LPGA Tour winner was diagnosed in mid-March with dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma that required full knee and partial tibia replacement surgery. She was not able to beat the rare and aggressive bone cancer.
“The LPGA Legends are heartbroken about the loss of our great friend, Dawn, who fought a valiant fight over the past few months against sarcoma,” said Jane Blalock, CEO of The Legends Tour. “Dawn was truly a player and a person admired, respected and loved by all of us who had the fortune to know and play alongside her.”
During the Dawn Coe-Jones Golf Classic on Oct. 14, a golf fundraiser for sarcoma research benefitting the Amandalee Fund at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Coe-Jones was honored as the recipient of the 2016 Colleen Walker Spirit Award.
The award is presented each year to recognize a Legends Tour Player who best exemplifies Walker’s spirit, courage and love of the game. Walker, a nine-time LPGA Tour winner, died after a lengthy illness with cancer in December 2012.
“Dawn touched so many people,” said Gail Graham, a fellow Canadian who played college golf at Lamar University with Coe-Jones, as well as on the LPGA Tour. “She was always the one who worried about others.”
Coe-Jones moved from Campbell River, B.C., to tiny Lake Cowichan, where she began playing golf at age 12 at March Meadows Golf Course – a public nine-hole course. She returned to the course annually for more than 25 years to host the Dawn Coe-Jones Junior Golf Tournament.
“When we were on the LPGA Tour, she would always collect clubs, balls and golf items from players to make sure that every junior in her tournament left with a prize,” said Graham.
Coe-Jones was the 1978 and 1979 British Columbia Junior Champion. She was the British Columbia Amateur champion in 1982 and 1983, as well as the 1983 Canadian Amateur Champion.
She graduated from Lamar University in 1983 with a degree in elementary education. As a college player, she won the 1982 Dick McGuire and Husky Invitational and was a 1983 first team All-American.
“Dawn was a quiet leader who led by example,” said Graham, who was a freshman when Coe-Jones was a senior at Lamar.
Following college graduation, Coe-Jones qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt and joined the LPGA in October 1983. She played on the LPGA Tour from 1984 to 2008.
Coe-Jones earned more than $3.3 million in career earnings. In addition to her three wins, she proudly finished third in Canada’s 1993 du Maurier Classic -- then played as one of the LPGA’s major championships. She was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.
Before Dawn and LPGA veteran Nancy Scranton became close friends, they were paired together during Scranton’s rookie year at an LPGA tournament in St. Petersburg, Fla. Scranton’s father, Wayne, who was caddying for her, was kept busy with a rake while Coe-Jones watched.
“According to Dawn, I hit my shot into a greenside bunker and proceeded to hit it back and forth across the green several times – from bunker to bunker to bunker,” recalled Scranton, whose 24-year LPGA career coincided with that of Coe-Jones.
“With my father trying to keep up, raking as fast as he could, Dawn stood watching and wondering, ‘How is this poor girl ever going to make it out here?’” laughed Scranton.
Early in their careers, Coe-Jones and Scranton, who grew up in a small town in southern Illinois, sat together in first-class seats for their inaugural trip to Japan for an LPGA tournament.
When it was time for dinner to be served on the jumbo jet, the two players laughed as they looked down at their place settings and tried to figure out how to make use of 10 pieces of silverware in front of each of them.
“Dawn and I came from different parts of the world, but we were a lot alike,” Scranton added. “We both knew we were lucky to play golf for a living and we never took that for granted. She was the best at making sure to thank every volunteer.”
The two friends laughed constantly throughout their years on tour – Scranton, the oft-naïve and friendly player from the Midwest, and the ambling, deadpan comedic Canadian who was funny even when she wasn’t trying. Their ribbing was constant. Their competition was never-ending, with Scranton and Coe-Jones still side-by-side on the LPGA’s career money list, at No. 81 and No. 82, respectively.
Even in recent months when Coe-Jones’ quality of health faltered, Scranton would send her friend photos of herself from The Legends Tour, eating meals in restaurants with empty chairs around her. The caption was: “Here, with all my friends.” Coe-Jones loved it.
But as quick-witted and fun loving as Coe-Jones could be, she was equally competitive on the golf course.
“Dawn was always a tough grinder and a real mudder because she grew up where it rains a ton,” added Graham. “Give her tough conditions and she just made it happen. She would shoot unbelievable scores in awful weather and relished doing it.”
Coe-Jones was a high school basketball player and like most Canadians, she loved and occasionally dabbled in ice hockey. She had a simple, short, slap-shot-style golf swing that golf sportscaster Johnny Miller once called “a buggy whip.”
In 2006, she joined The Legends Tour, the official senior tour of the LPGA, and recorded nine top-10 finishes. Coe-Jones also represented Canada and competed for the World Team nine times in the ISPS Handa Cup, a Legends Tour international team competition similar to the LPGA’s Solheim Cup.
She also helped carry the Olympic Torch en route to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, an experience she said was something she would “never, ever forget.”
Family was important to Coe-Jones. She married Jimmy Jones on November 14, 1992, and gave birth to their only child, James “Jimmy” Richard Jones on October 20, 1995.
Coe-Jones was a proud “hockey mom” when her son played ice hockey in Tampa youth leagues and in high school, but when he switched to golf in his early teens, she became the nervous “golf mom” who was told by her son to watch him play from a distance. “Little Jimmy” now plays college golf at the University of South Florida.
“She wouldn’t always brag on him, but if you said, ‘Jimmy played great,’ you could see that Dawn was so proud,” said Graham.
In mid-October, her LPGA friends assembled to support a local charity golf tournament In Tampa that had been renamed the Dawn Coe-Jones Golf Classic to benefit the Amandalee Fund at Moffitt Cancer Center. Twenty-six players helped round out the record field of 43 teams for the event at Tampa Palms Country Club. They raised more than $51,000 for sarcoma research.
Those LPGA alumnae players also organized a fund-raising challenge among themselves, pitting their college alma maters against each other in a competition to generate more research funding. They have already raised more than $30,000.
Coe-Jones was able to visit with and watch her friends play at the charity tournament and when she spoke during a reception that followed play, the dry-humored, self-deprecating Canadian made her friends more comfortable in the moment with her typical sarcastic one-liners in the name of fun and friendship.
“I’ll miss those zingers,” said Graham. “Dawn was a true friend.”
True to her selfless nature, her last outing from home came on Oct. 30, when Coe-Jones went to watch Scranton’s son, Luke, play a soccer game in Tampa. She was always there for both Scranton and her children and encouraged the kids to be the best they could be.
“Dawn is family to me,” said Scranton. “When we think of her and all the fun times, we’ll still laugh, just not as much.”
Memorial service and funeral arrangements currently are pending. Those wishing to make donations to the Amandalee Fund for sarcoma research at the Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation may do so by contacting the center at: 813-745-1403 or 1-800-456-3434, Ext. 1403, or foundationinfo@MOFFITT.org, or at Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation, 12902 USF Magnolia Drive, Tampa, FL 33612