Former Royal County Down professional and PGA captain Ernie Jones passes away aged 87
"One of the nicest men I ever knew and a true pro."
When double major champion Tony Jacklin is amongst those paying tribute, the standing of Ernie Jones in the golfing world becomes evident.
The former professional at Royal County Down and Bangor Golf Club has passed away aged 87.
From the Curragh, Kildare, Jones was professional at Carlow and Foxrock, Dublin, before moving north in 1963 to take the job at Bangor.
Jones then moved down the County Down coast to RCD, where he would remain until 1991 before joining the K Club.
His services to the Professional Golfers' Association was recognised in 1991, when he became only the second Irishman to captain the PGA after the great Fred Daly, 1947 Open champion.
Jones' links to Jacklin date back to the 1969 Ryder Cup, where he was the referee for the famous 'Concession' match between the Englishman and Jack Nicklaus. The event had been marred by unsportsmanlike behaviour and feuds, before Nicklaus conceded the final putt to ensure the Ryder Cup ended as a draw.
Jones was also one of Ireland's top players in his own right, having won the Irish PGA Championship in 1955 and 1964, also taking the 1971 Kenya Open title.
He competed at the Open on eight occasions, making the cut to finish in a tie for 41st in 1972.
"It's a very sad loss," said current PGA captain Peter Hanna, who this year followed Jones and Daly to become the third Irishman to hold the post.
"I remember him when I first turned professional. He was the first man we all looked up to and aspired to be like. He always made all of us young professionals very welcome. He always had our respect as a man and he clearly had the PGA at his heart.
"Ernie was a steady, sound man not only in life, but as a golfer as well. He was a good, solid player and won the trophies to prove it."
Jones' funeral will be held on Friday.
"There are two types of professional; a golf professional and a professional golfer," he told the Irish Times back in 2001. "For players of sufficient ability they should remain in the amateur game for as long as possible, establish their reputation, win championships, play all the team events and then go for the card.
"For those who may not make that standard, a golf professional's life is lovely and very rewarding. They receive first class training in all facets of the game and there are major opportunities. Many professionals go on to become Directors of Golf at clubs. It's a marvellous life."
Belfast Telegraph Digital