independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Gentleman Ernie enjoys 51 not out

ERNIE JONES, head professional at the K Club, is now in his 51st year in the game and loves it more than ever.``There's no better game than golf, and the more often you hit it, the more exercise you get. Fellas are out there worrying about hitting a little white ball and it takes their mind off everything else. It's a great game,'' he said.

A true gentleman of the fairways, Ernie has enjoyed a career of achievement and triumph, yet retains a quiet dignity which is admirably suited to Ireland's Ryder Cup 2005 venue.

HEAD PROFESSIONAL

Mind you, he has been associated for so long with clubs in the North - he was pro at Bangor from 1963 to '75, and at Royal Co Down from '75-'91 - that some people might be surprised to find Ernie is a Kildare man.

In fact by joining the K Club he was returning to his roots, as he is a native of The Curragh.

His golf career began as an assistant the Curragh golf club in 1948. Four years later he took over at Carlow, where he was head professional until 1958. Ernie will thus take a keen interest in Carlow's centenary celebrations this year.

Foxrock was his next port of call, where he stayed from '58 to 63, and then came his sojourn at Bangor, followed by Royal Co Down and the K Club.

On the fairways, Ernie has enjoyed his share of glory. He won two Irish Championships; three Ulster championships; The Hennessy Tournament, Coxmoor Tournament, Kenyan Open in 1971, the PGA Seniors championship in 1984, and the Irish Seniors in 1986.

Ernie partnered the late Christy Greene in the World Cup in 1965 and rates among his top memories beating the late, great Harry Bradshaw when he was at his best.

The K Club pro also had the privilege of being a Ryder Cup referee. In that capacity he had the distinction of refereeing the famous match between Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus at Birkdale in 1969.

The Ryder Cup depended on the result of their match. Jacklin faced a tricky putt for a half, the kind of putt Peter Alliss would describe in a tone of dread as ``one of those ... ''.

Class act that he is, Nicklaus stepped up, picked up Jacklin's marker, handed it to him, and the Ryder Cup was halved.

RECOGNITION

Off the course Ernie has made a major contribution, and never stopped working for his fellow pros. He is a former captain of the Irish region of the PGA, was chairman of the Ulster Branch and helped found the Ulster Golfers Alliance and has served on the Seniors Tour Board.

Ten years ago his character and achievements were given special recognition. Ernie was given International Honorary Membership of the USGA, a roll of honour which includes Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Billy Casper.

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